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  • 28 Oct 2020 2:58 PM | Anonymous

    https://www.solarenergyworld.com/examples-of-solar-energy-worlds-residential-installations/Solar Powered Home, Rockville MD, Courtesy of Solar Energy WorldCredit: Solar Energy World

    Laureen Peck Chief Marketing Officer for Solar Energy World

    Solar has prospered over the past four years in the USA despite Section 201 tariffs imposed by the Trump administration, a reduction in the federal Investment Tax Credit and fluctuating policies. In fact, the industry is expected to break a new record, adding more than 18 GW in 2020. According to investment firm, Wood Mackenzie, the market will continue growing, hitting 20 GW in 2022. But, many people wonder how the results of the upcoming election could affect the solar industry and the adoption of rooftop solar in particular.

    Here the two main reasons solar will keep growing despite the election outcome:

    1) Solar enjoys broad support from both Democrat and Republican voters 

    There are several studies and surveys that support this. A recent nationwide online survey, published by PNAS, found that broad support exists across the political spectrum for a future powered mostly by renewable energy sources. Another recent study published by Nature Research Journals reached the same conclusion that support for renewable energy and for solar in particular crosses party lines

    In fact, solar adoption among registered Republicans and Democrats show that political affiliation doesn’t seem to matter that much. A study done by Google project, Sunroof, found “34 percent of properties with solar belonged to registered Democrats, 20 percent belonged to registered Republicans and the remaining 46 percent were independents or unregistered.”

    There are some differences in what motivates homeowners to go solar. All studies show that both Democratic and Republican solar owners are influenced by a desire to mitigate climate change to some extent, but Republicans’ adoption of residential solar is attributed more to the belief in the right to self-generate as this quote illustrates, “Solar provides some choice from being tethered to these government-created monopolies,” says Debbie Dooley, who leads the Green Tea Coalition, an offshoot of the Tea Party. “Solar equals freedom,” she continues.

    Also interesting to note, the federal tax credit that offsets the costs of installing solar panels enjoys support from 89 percent of Americans — including 83 percent of Republicans.

    2) Solar saves money

    Regardless of who people vote for, everyone agrees saving money is a good thing. According to Pew Research, the majority of homeowners site electricity cost savings as the primary motivator for making a switch to solar power. Environmental considerations come in second.

    That being said, solar has seen a dramatic drop in price. Research from MIT shows that over the past 40 years, the price of photovoltaic modules has dropped by 99 percent, which makes owning solar more affordable for more people.

    Since the MIT study was published, solar pricing has dropped even more. Today, consumers shopping for solar panels can benefit from an unforeseen outcome of the current COVID-19 crisis. Another more recent study from Wood Mackenzie shows that the cost of U.S. solar power is dropping faster than expected as the coronavirus stifles demand. “Residential-system prices will fall 17% over the next five years”, the research company said Wednesday. “That’s steeper than the 14% it had expected before the coronavirus.”

    The lower price tag for panels for homeowners who wish to own their solar system, and the increasing availability of Solar Leasing and Solar PPAs that allow homeowners to literally pay nothing to install solar so they can lower their utility bill, have also had a huge impact on the growth of solar

    Even more interesting, other data shows that the cost of solar is becoming cheaper than fossil fuels worldwide, even without subsidies. So, if tax breaks and subsidies are eventually ended in the USA, solar adoption will still grow.

    All the data shows there is good news for the solar industry and for anyone interested in running their homes on sunshine.  

    It is logical to assume that if the candidate who supports more investment in renewable energy research and production wins, solar and other renewable energies will see bigger and faster growth.  However, regardless of the outcome, solar isn’t going away.

    https://www.renewableenergyworld.com/2020/10/22/why-solar-will-thrive-no-matter-who-wins-the-presidential-election/utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=2020-10-28&utm_source=rew_weekly_newsletter


  • 27 Oct 2020 10:46 AM | Anonymous


    OSEA is proud to announce VANCITY Community Investment Bank has joined as a corporate member and will be represented by Jonathan Frank, Managing Director of Co-Power, a leader in community financing of clean power and energy efficiency projects for positive community social change

  • 26 Oct 2020 10:15 AM | Anonymous


    Aird & Berlis LLP | Aird & McBurney LP

    October 20 2020


    On October 8, 2020, the Ministry of Energy, Development and Mines posted a regulatory proposal detailing planned amendments to Ontario’s Net Metering Regulation to allow for “demonstration of community net-metering projects.” The proposal summary states that community net metering “would support the development of innovative projects such as net-zero communities using distributed energy resources.” As we previously discussed, Ontario has allowed net metering since the Net Metering Regulation came into force in 2006. Net metering involves an arrangement between an electricity utility and customer, such as a homeowner or business, whereby the customer generates electricity for their own use from a renewable source, while still drawing electricity from the grid when it is needed. Subject to program rules, customers can then sell their self-generated renewable electricity to the grid where they generate more than they need for their own purposes. The Ministry of Energy is proposing to permit community net metering demonstration projects which would provide customers and developers more options to participate in net metering initiatives that may help lower the community’s costs and meet sustainability goals. Community net metering would be an arrangement allowing the transfer or sharing of credits from generation facilities within a community across multiple metered accounts. Embedded renewable generation and potentially energy storage facilities would be used to supply the community as well as send any generation that exceeds the community’s needs to the grid. The supply to the grid would result in electricity bill credits for participating account in the community, which could be used to offset costs of electricity consumption from the grid.

    The new model would be prescribed in amendments to the Net Metering Regulation and would require elements such as: a net metering arrangement between the local electricity utility and the customer leading the community net metering project – the net metering agreement will describe the roles, responsibilities and obligations of the parties; behind the meter (BTM) renewable generation and energy storage becoming part of the community electrical system; billing of sub-metered customers in the community in accordance with Ontario’s Energy Consumer Protection Act, 2010, the Unit Sub-Metering Code, and any other applicable codes and rules; reporting requirements to measure performance; and compliance with all applicable electricity codes and rules in Ontario. The proposed community net metering model is intended to align with Ontario’s broader electricity policy objectives including rate fairness for all customers; consumer protection; enabling new business opportunities; and, ensure meaningful opportunities exist for Indigenous participation. In terms of regulatory impact, the community net metering model aims “to remove regulatory barriers to enable business opportunities and spur innovation in the sector.” The Ministry of Energy states that the projects could test the potential for innovative energy solutions to provide benefits to customers and address grid issues. The Ministry of Energy indicates that it is seeking input (by November 22, 2020) on the proposed community net metering requirements, “including flexibility that may be needed to encourage innovation in integration of distributed energy technologies and applications.” When implemented, the changes to the Net Metering Regulation (or new Regulation) will support the implementation and monitoring of “demonstration projects to inform future policy development”, including “potential future enhancements to the net metering framework.”


  • 02 Oct 2020 9:30 AM | Anonymous



    In the speech from the throne, Governor General Julie Payette reiterated that this Liberal government wants to “build back better” while Canada recovers from the economic and health crisis of Covid-19. While the government fully supports investing in clean energy and good paying jobs, there are many details still unknown, and there will need to be input to the federal government on how best the government can deliver over the coming years.

    The speech outlined four key areas that support the OSEA mission in Ontario, which represents about 40 percent of Canada’s economy;

    1. Building Retrofits

    The government has announced $2B to invest in building retrofits to get the transformation of ourcommercial building stock and housing across Canada energy efficient. While a significant first step there is much more investment required out to 2050. These funds could create an Energy Efficiency Bank for Canada and be levered to the $15-$20 B required with today’s ultra-low interest rates. More skills training and capacity building is needed, especially in technologies like Geo-Exchange. Ontario has many skilled companies in this technology and is ready to accelerate change.

    2. Clean Power

    The government intends to spend $2.5B in clean energy and renewables in Canada. Since renewables are now less expensive than other traditional sources of electricity, there will be huge opportunities here for those in the sector and companies wanting to secure contracts. For Ontario this translates into roughly $1B of allocated funds. There will have be enhanced provincial policies on skills training, and there might be greater involvement of the work being done by the IESO to more rapidly open new market revenues that will compliment traditional wind and solar with energy storage and ancillary services.

    3. Zero-Emission vehicles

    The government will spend $1.5B to get zero emission bus fleets and charging technology to be adopted faster, targeting some 5,000 transit and school buses which now are less than 10 percent of the HD and medium vehicle fleets. In addition to this statement will be the need for procurement so more of it occurs nationally. Additionally, studies on how the distribution utilities will accommodate these new loads should be undertaken. For Ontario, this could translate into roughly $600m.

    4. Remote Communities

    Here the federal government intends to spend $2.5B for clean energy and another $2B for building retrofits. This could be a once in a lifetime opportunity to ensure indigenous housing and communities are properly built, rebuilt and become resilient to the fast impacts of climate change.


    OSEA and its membership will work hard to advance all of the above areas.

    Sincerely

    Dan Goldberger

    Chair, OSEA


  • 30 Sep 2020 9:43 AM | Anonymous


    On September 21st, 2020, Ontario Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks Jeff Yurek announced that Ontario’s Emissions Performance Standards (“EPS”) program was approved by Environment Canada as an alternative to the federal output-based pricing system (“OBPS ”). This means that the federal government will stand down the OBPS under the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act (“GGPPA”) (commonly referred to as the “federal carbon price” or “federal backstop”), allowing the EPS to fill the regulatory space.

    The Ontario and federal government will be working to transition from the federal backstop OBPS to the EPS so as to avoid duplication. The transition date will be determined in consultation with the Province.

    Importantly, the GGPPA will not withdraw entirely from Ontario  ̶  the federal Fuel Charge, which applies a per-litre charge on various fuels throughout their supply chains, will continue to apply alongside the EPS.

    What is the Ontario EPS?

    The EPS program applies annual sector specific emission limits on large industrial facilities that emit GHGs. Emitters will be charged for failure to meet the EPS standards and will receive tradeable credits when they exceed them. The program will ratchet up stringency over time in order to save industries an initial shock and give them time to meet their obligations. For more details about the EPS program, see our article from February 2019.

    The OBPS backstop comes from Part II of the GGPPA, which allows each province to design its own industrial carbon pricing scheme that meets federal standards, but imposes the federal scheme if they fall short. In December, the federal government announced that Alberta’s industrial emissions pricing system and New Brunswick’s provincial fuel charge met federal stringency requirements. Now, Ontario’s EPS and New Brunswick’s system for industrial emitters have also been accepted as meeting federal requirements.

    Federal Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson has commented that despite being weaker than the federal OBPS, the Ontario EPS meets the minimum requirements required by the GGPPA.

    The EPS regulation, Ontario Regulation 241/19, is already in force, having come into effect on July 4, 2019. However, to avoid double regulation, only the registration and record keeping requirements of the EPS have applied thus far. The Ontario Government clarified that other EPS compliance obligations will not apply until the federal government removes Ontario from the federal OBPS. Thus, the OBPS remains in effect in Ontario until the federal government and provinces agree to a transition date.

    How does this affect the Supreme Court hearing on carbon pricing?

    This announcement came the day before Ontario joined Saskatchewan and Alberta to challenge the constitutional validity of the GGPPA in the Supreme Court of Canada, which heard oral arguments on September 22nd and 23rd.

    The approval of the EPS does not alter Ontario’s position in opposition to the GGPPA. Ontario has argued before the Supreme Court that the GGPPA is an unconstitutional intrusion into the regulatory space of the provinces. Unless the Supreme Court rules in Ontario’s favour, Canada retains authority to reverse their approval of the EPS if it were ever to fall below the GGPPA’s prescribed stringency. The GGPPA’s Fuel Charge also remains in effect in Ontario.

    Jennifer King, Michael Finley and Liane Langstaff from Gowling WLG have represented the Canadian Public Health Association ("CPHA") as an intervenor at the Supreme Court of Canada, and previously in the Saskatchewan and Ontario Reference cases. Gowling WLG continues to monitor changing greenhouse gas regulations and these important court challenges in its role as intervenor counsel. For more information, please contact any member of our team.

    Annual Year in Review Webinar Series

    Interested in these and other environmental law updates? Save the date for Gowling WLG’s Annual Year in Review, with a series of webinars on October 29, November 5 and November 12.

    For those interested in the climate conversation, please join us on November 12 at 12:30 p.m. EST. Gowling WLG’s Jennifer King and Liane Langstaff will be joined by leading US environmental lawyers, Brook Detterman and Eric Christensen of Beveridge & Diamond to discuss cross-border issues in a low carbon world. The session will be moderated by Robyn Gray, Vice President, Environment of Sussex Strategy Group. Stay tuned for details on how you can join the conversation.


    NOT LEGAL ADVICE. Information made available on this website in any form is for information purposes only. It is not, and should not be taken as, legal advice. You should not rely on, or take or fail to take any action based upon this information. Never disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking legal advice because of something you have read on this website. Gowling WLG professionals will be pleased to discuss resolutions to specific legal concerns you may have.

    https://gowlingwlg.com/en/insights-resources/articles/2020/federal-carbon-pricing-system-for-large-emitters/?utm_source=vuture&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=vuture/




  • 24 Sep 2020 5:01 PM | Anonymous


    Biomass Collection 1

    Funds for biomass technologies, wood stove replacement among the community initiatives

    Ottawa rolled out nearly $13 million for a number of forestry biomass-related energy and heating projects in First Nation communities across Northern Ontario.

    Thunder Bay-Superior North MP Patty Hajdu made the announcement in Thunder Bay for Natural Resources Minister Seamus O'Regan.

    The money is coming from the Clean Energy for Rural and Remote Communities Program, a six-year, $220-million program to reduce community reliance on diesel and replace it with renewable and energy efficient technology.

    Whitesand First Nation's Sagatay Co-generation LP has engineering plans for a biomass cogeneration system with the $4,168,000 it received to reduce the northwestern Ontario community's dependence on diesel fuel for heat and electricity.

    Want to read more stories about business in the North? Subscribe to our newsletter.

    Board member David Mackett said the adoption of low-carbon technologies can "transform and shape economic opportunity" in communities such as Whitesand.

    Nishnawbe Aski Nation, based in Thunder Bay, is using $2,532,000 to install much-needed, high-efficiency wood stovesin six communities to reduce the power demand from community diesel generators.

    "Over the next two years, 75 fully certified and code-compliant woodburning systems per year will be installed by locally trained community members according to Wood Energy Technology Transfer (WETT) standards," said Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler.

    Manitoulin Island's Wikwemikong Development Commission netted $2,452,750 toward the installation of pellet stoves, biomass boilers, wood pellet furnaces and wood pellet storage silos in Wikwemikong Unceded Territory, all part of the community's wood heating and infrastructure project.

    "NRCAN is supporting Wiikwemkoong's vision to build a sustainable community and addresses our objective to reduce our ecological footprint," said commission general manager Mary Lynn Odjig. 

    Askii Environmental received $1.67 million to install biomass heating systems in Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug First Nation and Pikangikum First Nation in a remote part of northwestern Ontario.

    "This 300-kilowatt wood chip boiler project is not only about clean energy and diesel reduction but also so much about capacity development," said Cara Sanders, principal of Askii Environmental.

    "Each nation now has a team of five workers who are primarily youth working and learning in the multi-faceted wood gathering program. Each Nation now has a sawmill to make lumber in the community, chain saws to harvest for firewood and fuel for the boilers, and Pikangikum First Nation also has tools to fabricate value-added items such as sheds and furniture. It is hoped that Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug will have carpentry tools next year." she added.

    Nipigon's Bingwi Neyaashi Anishinaabek (formerly known as Sand Point First Nation) is devoting $1,051,000 to replace the sawmill's diesel heat source with a biomass system and also to install biomass heating systems in three housing units in preparation for future biomass heating expansion.

    "As chief of Bingwi Neyaashi Anishinaabek, a community that is developing from the ground up, I believe that environmental and energy sustainability are critical pillars of our community's development," said Joe Ladouceur. 

    "Our Biomass Project has allowed us to fully utilize our sawmill wood waste to heat our facility and to prepare our homes for the future conversion to a district biomass heating system."

    Wahgoshig First Nation landed $983,000 to install a biomass heating system for the northeastern Ontario's community firehall, the lands and resources office, community centre and community elder's residence.

    Deputy Chief David Morris said the funding develop new local jobs, heats the community more efficiently and contributes toward "good stewardship over the land."

    https://www.northernontariobusiness.com/industry-news/forestry/feds-deliver-13-million-for-first-nation-clean-energy-heating-projects-2733133



  • 18 Sep 2020 10:53 AM | Anonymous

    Aug 31, 2020

    As discussed previously, the Government of Ontario has announced that Regulated Price Plan (RPP) consumers will be able to opt out of time-of-use (TOU) pricing in favour of tiered prices starting November 1, 2020. In July 2020, the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) issued proposed changes to the Standard Supply Service Code (SSSC) pricing to enable customers to switch between TOU and RPP, and asked for comments from stakeholders (see here). On August 25, 2020, the OEB issued a revised Notice of Proposal to Amend the Standard Supply Service Code (SSSC), including changes prompted by stakeholder feedback. For the most part, the process set out in the July 2020 Notice remains unchanged. The revisions now proposed update discrete items, and “are intended to facilitate the timely, cost effective and efficient implementation of the new customer choice initiative by November 1, 2020.” The OEB has invited comments on these revisions, which are described below.

    First, the OEB clarified the proposed requirement for distributors to rely on meter data provided by the Smart Metering Entity (SME). All distributors currently receive billing quantities for residential and general service less than 50kW TOU consumers from the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) in its capacity as the SME. A number of distributors commented that they would prefer to continue to receive billing quantities from the SME under the TOU “framing structure” used by the Meter Data Management/Repository (MDM/R) for the purpose of billing RPP consumers who have elected to be charged tiered pricing. In response, the OEB is proposing to revise the wording of the proposed new section 3.5.13 of the SSSC to make it clear that no changes to the MDM/R framing structure used by distributors are required for the purposes of billing consumers on tiered prices. More specifically, section 3.5.13 would require distributors to rely on the SME for “the provision of consumption amounts for billing purposes,” which does not expressly or by implication refer to any particular framing structure. The intent of this revision is to allow a distributor to continue billing based on meter data under the TOU framing structure, even after a consumer has moved to tiered prices, if that is the distributor’s preference. If, however, a distributor would prefer to use the data under the periodic framing structure, it may do so.

    The second main revisions relate to consumer notification. In its July 2020 Notice, the OEB had proposed a four-step process for processing a consumer’s election to opt out of TOU prices. Stakeholders raised concerns about the second and fourth of these “steps”.

    The second step requires the distributor to send a notification to the consumer within 10 business days of receiving the consumer’s notice of election in the same communication channel used by the consumer to make the election. Several distributors suggested that the restriction on the method of delivery be relaxed. Thus, the OEB now proposes modifications to the proposed new section 3.5.6 of the SSSC, to the effect that delivery of the customer verification would be according to “the customer’s preferred method of communication, if known, or otherwise by mail or any other means determined to be appropriate by the distributor.” The OEB notes that it is important for consumers to be advised about the status of their election, particularly about when they can expect their election to become effective.

    Several distributors also expressed concern about the fourth and final step, which required a one-time on-bill message confirming that the consumer has been moved to a different price structure. Concerns raised by distributors were about the technical feasibility of adapting their systems to accommodate the on-bill message in time for November 1, 2020. In response, the OEB now proposes to not mandate such a message, and to not proceed with the related proposed reporting requirement that would have applied to any distributor that failed to include a message on the first bill to the consumer under the new price structure.

    The last main revision is to clarify and elaborate on the proposed rules that would build consumer choice into certain consumer account changes. The OEB proposes to revise the wording of the new section 3.5.8 of the SSSC to make the OEB’s expectation clearer in regard to ensuring a consumer is aware of its options when opening a new account. While a distributor will not be required to ask a consumer for their election between TOU and tiered pricing, the distributor will have to inform the consumer of their options and given them an opportunity to elect their chosen option. This will support continued use of automated systems to enroll new and moving consumers. 



  • 08 Sep 2020 5:15 PM | Anonymous

    Overview of Exports to Africa Webinar Event 2020

    OSEA held our annual Exports to Africa Webinar Event on Friday September 4th 2020. This initiative focuses on clean energy products and services that can be used to help countries in Africa to deliver continuous and dependable clean energy options to help promote sustainable energy and living. Our panelists for this event were Eyad Qudsi; Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation, and Trade Diana Cartwright; Global Affairs Canada, Robert Graham; CPCS, and Katy Baker; Magnet Business Portal. We have posted panelist biographies, photos, and content on our website for interested parties or for those who were unable to attend our webinar event. 

    The photos, biographies, and other information has been collects in the the word document below. 


    Panelist for Exports to Africa Webinar 2020.docx


    Webinar content has been posted below. 


    OSEA. Ontario. Green Exports to Africa Webinar.pptx

    Magnet Export Business Portal OSEA Presentation August 2020.pptx

    TCS Presentation August 2020 - OSEA.ppt 

    CPCS brochure 2020 - Power intro OSEA RG v2.pptx

  • 08 Sep 2020 9:36 AM | Anonymous

    Sustainable Investing Can Be Blurry



    September 9th 2020 

    Written By: Jinjoon Lee

    There’s one area where risk ratings are possible. Can environmental, social and governance risks be quantified? With the notable exception of car- bon emissions, probably not—but that doesn’t mean the exercise isn’t useful for investors.

    Interest in sustainable investment is ballooning. One sign is the money given to mutual funds: In the first half of 2020, net flows into sustainable funds totaled $20.9 billion in the U.S., according to Morningstar, compared with $21.4 billion for 2019 as a whole.

    Fund managers that don’t specialize in ESG strategies are scrambling to incorporate them into their investment frameworks. There is an industry of risk ratings, but these come with a problem: The correlation between companies’ ratings of the same stock is low because they measure performance differently. An example is Tesla. MSCI rates the electric-car maker highly because of its environmentally friendly products, while FTSE Russell gives it a middling score for other reasons. This confusion gives ESG ratings a reputation for fuzziness.

    Quantifying the risk to earnings from a given concern is a pleasingly sharp-edged alternative. Lon- don fund manager Schroders has developed a tool, SustainEx, to put a value on a company’s “externalities—the unpaid costs of its activity borne by society. The rationale from 18% this year while natural gas-fired power’s share will decline to 35% from 40%. That comes after more than a decade over which coal gradually lost share.

    RBC analyst Christopher Louney estimates that natural gas burn for electricity could decline 2% year over year in 2021 while coal generation picks up 6%—at the conservative end of his forecast.

    Despite cheerleading from the White House, the reversal will do little to salvage coal’s bleak future. But it reveals how cutthroat the natural gas business has been in recent years. There have been other surges—in 2018 natural gas prices struck close to $4 and temporary gas-to-coal switching was observed—but those rallies weren’t as sticky as analysts predict this one will be and were never enough to shift the annual share of electricity away toward coal.

    Luke Jackson, team leader for North American natural gas at S&P Global Platts, expects natural gas prices to average $2.90 for the remainder of 2020 and $3.30 for 2021, while RBC’s Mr. Louney estimates prices will edge up to $2.60 in the fourth quarter and gradually move up to $2.80 by the end of 2021.

    The shift will vary significantly by region. The Midwestern and Southeastern power markets, which need to bring in natural gas through pipelines, already are see- ing signs of natural gas-to-coal switching, according to Mr. Jack- son. Pipelines are running at full capacity, leading to regional gaps in natural gas prices. As an example, prices for the Chicago Citygate index in the Midwest averaged $2.05 in August, while the price in Dominion South—a hub close to the gas-producing Marcellus and Utica basins—was $1.21. The Mid- west and the Southeast also still rely on coal for a substantial share of their electricity generation: The hydrocarbon accounted for 49% and 44% of electricity generated in the respective markets as of mid- day Friday. The Northeast, on the other hand, is closer to dry gas ba- sins and hasn’t seen signs of coal switching yet. That could change in winter months when heating demand surges.

    Yet none of this portends a last- ing comeback for coal-fired power. As recently as 2015, coal was the largest fuel source for electricity in the U.S., but low natural gas prices and rigorous environmental standards have pushed many coal generators to shut down. An additional 25 gigawatts, roughly 11% of coal power capacity as of year-end 2019, is expected to retire by 2025, according to the EIA. Already, many coal plants are unable to operate enough hours to cover costs and some have evaluated plans to run only during seasons with high demand.

    This may not be the last time that market forces temporarily re- verse the tide. Coal’s fade to black could be a long one.

    Sources: FactSet (futures); U.S. Energy Information Administration 

  • 21 Aug 2020 11:42 AM | Anonymous


    Significant Reforms to the Environmental ‎Assessment Act Reshape Environmental Review in ‎Ontario

    Contributors: Lana Finney and Ryan McNamara

    August 17, 2020

    Building Green Facade

    Since November 2018, the Government of Ontario has repeatedly signalled its intention to “modernize” ‎the Ontario Environmental Assessment Act (“EAA”) to better align the level of review with the degree of ‎potential environmental risk associated with a project and streamline review processes for low risk ‎projects. With the substantial amendments to the EAA recently enacted by the Legislative Assembly of ‎Ontario on July 21, 2020, the government has taken a significant step towards reforming how projects ‎are assessed in Ontario. Nevertheless, whether the government has delivered on its promises and truly ‎‎“modernized” the EAA remains an open question, both because it has yet to publish key regulations ‎elaborating on the new assessment framework and because the amended Act, in its current state, ‎arguably does not address all of the objectives the government set for itself. Regardless of whether the ‎EAA amendments meaningfully realize every one of the government’s self-proclaimed goals, they ‎represent a significant shift in project assessment in Ontario and should be closely examined by project ‎proponents.‎

    Overview of environmental assessment in Ontario Development of the “modern” EA framework ensures better alignment between the level of assessment and level of environmental risk ‎associated with a project;‎ eliminates duplication between environmental assessment and other planning and approvals ‎processes;‎ finds efficiencies in the environmental assessment process and related planning and approvals ‎processes to shorten the timelines from start to finish; and goes digital by permitting online submissions to permit interested persons to access information ‎about environmental assessment.‎

    Changes to the EA process Tying environmental assessment to inclusion in a project list – Unlike the existing ‎framework for EA, the amendments passed on July 21 make the requirement to undertake an ‎environmental assessment contingent on whether or not a given project involves activities ‎matching one of the project descriptions contained in a project list, which is to be set out in a ‎forthcoming regulation. This new approach to identifying which projects require environmental ‎assessment aligns the EAA more closely with its federal counterpart, the Impact Assessment ‎Act, which likewise ties impact assessment to whether a project is “designated”. By removing the ‎requirement for all “undertakings” proceeding through the EA process, the amendments ostensibly ‎further the government’s objective of allocating resources to the assessment of major projects ‎with the potential to cause significant environmental effects rather than requiring all public sector ‎projects, regardless of the level of associated risk, to undergo environmental assessment.‎

    Eliminating Class EAs in favour of streamlined EAs – The newly enacted amendments set in ‎motion a process to replace Class EA documents with a single streamlined EA process, which ‎will be specified by regulations applying to certain classes of designated projects. As of July ‎‎21, 2020 no more Class EA documents will be approved; nevertheless, proponents will continue ‎to be allowed to comply with the EAA by following the assessment processes described in one ‎of the 10 existing Class EA documents. This option to follow a Class EA process will only be ‎eliminated once each of the 10 Class EA documents are revoked and replaced, where ‎appropriate, with new regulations.‎

    Limitations of “bump-up” or elevation requests – Prior to amendment, the EAA permitted ‎‎“any person” resident in Ontario to request that the Minister issue an order elevating a project that ‎would otherwise follow the streamlined Class EA process to an “individual” EA. These “bump-up” ‎orders may still be requested or issued by the Minister at his or her own initiative; however, ‎section 16.1 of the amended EAA now restricts the timeframe in which the Minister can make ‎such an order. Even more significantly, the amended Act limits the grounds on which a person ‎may seek a “bump-up” order to where a project will have an adverse impact on existing aboriginal ‎and treaty rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada.‎
    Expiry dates for approvals – Approval of a project by the Minister or the Environmental Review ‎Tribunal following a comprehensive EA will now expire after 10 years, where the Minister or ERT ‎has not otherwise specified an expiry date for the approval.‎

    Municipal approval required for new landfills – A proponent which proposes to “establish” a ‎landfill must obtain the approval of the municipality in which the landfill is located. In addition, ‎the approval of other municipalities may be required. If a proposed landfill is within 3.5 km of the ‎boundaries of a municipality in which a parcel of land is (a) zoned for residential uses and (b) ‎located within an “area of settlement”, the proponent of that landfill will need to obtain the ‎approval of that municipality as well. ‎

    Concerns raised about the new amendments Environmental assessment (“EA”) in Ontario dates back to 1975 when the EAA was first enacted. The ‎EAA as it existed from 1975 until July 21, 2020 established an assessment framework that only applied ‎to “undertakings”, as defined in the EAA. These “undertakings” included all public sector projects carried ‎out by provincial and municipal bodies, as well as a small number of private sector undertakings deemed ‎to carry a higher likelihood of adverse environmental effects, such as certain waste management, ‎electricity, and transit projects. Prior to the most recent amendment, the EAA applied to all ‎‎“undertakings” in the province, with specific regulations or ministry-approved documents reducing the ‎procedural requirements for certain classes of projects or, in some cases, entirely eliminating the ‎requirement for assessment. Streamlining environmental assessment through the modification of the ‎default EA process to expedite lower risk projects was achieved by two means: “Class” EA documents ‎and regulations. ‎

    Following the passage of significant amendments to the EAA in 1996, a “Class” EA document could be ‎approved by the Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (the “Minister”) for certain classes ‎of ‎undertakings – such as municipal infrastructure work, provincial highway repairs, and electricity ‎‎transmission facility upgrades – expected to have relatively minor and better understood environmental ‎impacts. ‎A minister-approved Class EA document authorized proponents of projects described in the ‎document to carry out their projects following a streamlined “self-assessment” process. Class EA ‎documents generally divided the class of undertakings subject to the document into sub-categories, ‎setting different requirements for project planning, documentation, and public consultation based on ‎project categorization. These categories were devised based on the nature of the project activities and ‎the potential for environmental impacts to be caused by those activities, with more onerous requirements ‎being imposed on undertakings associated with more significant potential impacts. Regulations were ‎also used by the government to exempt certain activities that would have otherwise been required to ‎undergo an individual EA from some or all of the requirements of the EAA. ‎

    In November 2018, the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (the “MECP”) released the ‎Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan, which signalled the intention of the then newly elected Progressive ‎Conservative government to reform a variety of environmental statutes with the self-described aim of ‎reconciling the need for a healthy environment with the promotion of a robust provincial economy. This ‎plan briefly mentioned the objective of “modernizing” Ontario’s environmental assessment process to ‎‎“address duplication, streamline processes, improve service standards to reduce delays, and better ‎recognize other planning processes”. The details of how Ontario’s EA regime would be changed to ‎achieve this objective were, however, absent from the plan. Further information about the government’s ‎reform agenda were supplied by a discussion paper, Modernizing Ontario’s Environmental Assessment ‎Program, which was published by the MECP in April 2019. This discussion paper set out several “initial ‎actions” to create a “modern framework” for environmental assessment. In the MECP’s own words, this ‎framework:‎

    Following public consultation and legislative drafting, the Government of Ontario proposed amendments ‎to the EAA via Bill 197, the COVID-19 Economic Recovery Act, 2020, which was introduced on July 8, ‎‎2020. Bill 197 contained amendments to twenty different pieces of legislation, many of them planned by ‎the government prior to the pandemic. The bill was fast-tracked through legislative process and was ‎enacted on July 21, 2020. ‎

    The key amendments to the EAA that were passed in Bill 197 include:‎

    • A new part of the EAA, Part II.3, will now govern the review of “individual” EAs, which will now be ‎referred to as “comprehensive” EAs. Part II.3 will largely replicate the requirements and EA ‎processes that applied to projects previously subject to “individual” EA.  ‎

    Concerns have been raised by members of affected industries and environmental groups about certain ‎elements of the amended EAA. Legal practitioners and participants in the waste management industry ‎have expressed disquiet about the requirement that landfill proponents secure the approval of local ‎municipal councils before proceeding with construction. The Ontario Waste Management Association ‎‎(“OWMA”), for example, has suggested that this “municipal veto” will put the economy and environment in ‎jeopardy by “making it virtually impossible to build new landfills in Ontario.” This is a significant concern ‎given that in its 2018 report the OWMA estimated that population growth would result in the depletion of ‎landfill capacity by 2032 if no new landfill waste disposal facilities were approved and the rate of waste ‎exports remained at 2018 levels‎.  ‎

    Environmental groups, meanwhile, have expressed numerous objections to the recent EAA amendments. ‎For example, the Canadian Environmental Law Association (“CELA”) in its analysis highlights the ‎permissive nature of the new provision in the EAA that empowers the government to introduce Project ‎List regulations, objecting to the government’s decision not to set a deadline for the publication of ‎regulations, communicate criteria that will be used to designate projects for assessment, or provide a ‎draft list of designated projects. The CELA is of the view that the broad discretion given to the provincial ‎cabinet by the amended EAA to prescribe projects for which an environmental assessment is required ‎creates the risk that the government will designate only those projects that “have the most potential to ‎impact the environment”, thereby exempting medium to smaller-scale projects that may still carry ‎environmental risks. ‎

    A second major concern about the government’s amendments to the EAA mentioned by several ‎environmental groups is that the limitation of requests to elevate a streamlined EA project to a ‎‎“comprehensive” EA to circumstances where such an order will prevent, mitigate, or remedy harm to a ‎recognized Aboriginal right or treaty right is far too restrictive and prevents members of the public from ‎raising concerns about environmental or other non-Indigenous impacts that may nevertheless be relevant ‎to the level of scrutiny that should be applied to a project. ‎

    It remains possible that some of these criticisms will be addressed through forthcoming regulations. ‎Because of the dependence of the new EAA framework on regulations establishing a Project List and ‎determining which classes of projects may proceed via a streamlined EA process, the extent to which ‎overhaul of the EAA will impact project proponents and achieve the government’s stated objectives ‎remains to be determined.‎

    Consequently, proponents will want to follow the regulation development process closely to ascertain ‎whether their proposed projects will fall within one of the activity descriptions contained in the ‎forthcoming draft Project List regulations and, if so, whether they will be able to rely on a streamlined ‎assessment process. It may be the case that the Project List regulations will include project types that ‎were not included in the definition of an “undertaking” under the EAA and, thus, not previously subject to ‎the EAA. ‎

    This article provides only general information about legal issues and developments, and is not intended to provide specific legal advice. Please see our disclaimer for more details. 

    https://www.dlapiper.com/en/canada/insights/publications/2020/0

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