Ontario adopts new environmental process for waterpower

Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment has approved a new �class� environmental assessment process, specific to review of hydropower projects, that is expected to accelerate and expand hydropower development in the province.

The Ontario Waterpower Association proposed the Class Environmental Assessment for Waterpower Projects, which replaces an earlier environmental screening process. (HNN 11/14/07) Provisions took effect Oct. 8.

The Class EA is intended to provide direction for effective project assessment, OWA said. It brings together key federal and province regulatory requirements into a single, coordinated process for planning and evaluating hydropower projects. It includes a specific focus on public engagement and aboriginee community involvement.

The new process requires a formal environmental report for every project and requires all new hydropower projects to be screened against environmental, social, cultural, and economic criteria.

The Class EA is designed to ensure sponsors of hydropower projects consistently take into account the potential effects that their projects would have on the environment using an approved process that is specific to hydropower projects, OWA said. It sets out a planning process that is to be followed for specific project types.

The process provides a single document that can be used for assessing projects according to their type and scale of activity, potential for environmental effect, and level and extent of public, aboriginee, and agency interest. The document is intended to provide a common process for developers, the public, government agencies, aboriginee communities, and others of the planning, evaluation, reporting, and involvement process for each category.

Class EA documents are available on the Ontario Waterpower Association Internet site, www.owa.ca.

OWA began work on the EA procedure in 2002, hoping to coordinate and integrate what it called the multiplicity of environmental approvals and public involvement processes for planning a hydro project. Government agencies, non-governmental organizations, aboriginee interests, and the public provided information and input for the new process.

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