May 2021 Bulletin

Energy Justice

Energy Justice & Poverty – A Case Study for Ontario

CELA lawyers Jacqueline Wilson and Theresa McClenaghan recently teamed up with Zee Bhanji and former staffer Mary Todorow of the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario, to write a case study of the work undertaken over the past 20 years in Ontario to achieve a comprehensive energy poverty strategy.   

The paper explores the concept of energy poverty, and its ongoing impacts on marginalized communities in Ontario. They examined the experience in Ontario advancing the interests of low-income energy consumers through the Ontario Energy Board natural gas and electricity rate decision-making processes, including the organization of the Low-income Energy Network (LIEN).

They looked at key factors in the relative success of LIEN’s advocacy for low-income energy programming, based on advocacy for all elements of the “Energy Poverty Pyramid,” a concept which we borrowed from Dalhousie Law Clinic. Resulting programs include emergency energy assistance, low-income energy conservation programs, better utility terms of service and avoiding disconnections, and the adoption of the Ontario Electricity Support Program. 

The chapter looks at the critical active and on-going participation of many community partners and legal aid clinics, and the roles of utilities and governments in developing the elements of an energy poverty strategy. The chapter goes on to highlight the need for the integration of low-income and otherwise marginalized communities into the design of carbon pricing and climate change adaptation strategies. They also make recommendations regarding the need for further refinement and expansion of low-income energy programs.

working draft of the paper is now available on our website pending its publication by UBC Press:  Gaede, Hill and Winfield: Sustainable Energy Transitions for Canada: Challenges and Opportunities, in development for UBC Press. 

Lake Ontario, St Lawrence River. Photo Credit, Anastasia Lintner

Ten Years Later – Reflections on Emergency Preparedness on the Anniversary of Fukushima

This spring marks ten years since the tragic Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan. As we pause and remember the over 23,000 people who were lost, we honour their lives by advocating for strong nuclear emergency preparedness measures to ensure such a tragedy cannot happen again.

At the same time that the Fukushima tragedy was unfolding, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (through a joint review panel) was opening hearings under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act into the prospect of building new nuclear plants at the Darlington site in Durham Region, Ontario.

The intersection of the Fukushima event and the Darlington EA and licensing hearings as well as the subsequent Pickering life-extension licensing hearings spotlighted the inappropriateness of Durham Region as a location for multiple nuclear plants, given the proximity to high population densities.

Ten years after Fukushima, it is time to pause and consider whether the lessons of that tragic accident have ever been adequately implemented, and whether the necessary changes have been made. This is a critical question for Canada, given that we continue to rely so heavily on nuclear power in Ontario.

Read the full blog post by CELA Executive Director Theresa McClenaghan.

Bait-and-Switch? A Look at CELA’s Intervention Opposing Canada’s first ever SMR in Durham Region

In this blog post written by CELA Northern Services Intern Jane Cooper, Jane reviews CELA’s intervention in Ontario Power Generation (OPG)’s nuclear power reactor site preparation licence renewal request in Darlington, Ontario. CELA is concerned that the request is being misrepresented as a licence to maintain a vacant site, when in actuality it sets the stage for novel Small Modular Reactor (SMR) development in the Greater Toronto Area. As such, CELA is asking the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) to deny OPG’s request, and only proceed when and if OPG updates its environmental, safety, and accident assessments, taking into account the novel reactor design. The public is invited to tune in to the hearing, streaming live June 9-11.

Monarch Butterfly at Killarney Provincial Park. Photo Credit, Petri Bailey

Case Updates

A Win for Friends of Simcoe Forests

The Friends of Simcoe Forests Inc (FSF), won a major court challenge against the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing last week.

FSF had filed a challenge before the Ontario Divisional Court to the Minister’s decision to enact a Transitional Regulation to facilitate the establishment of a waste facility in the Freele County Forest. The Transitional Regulation exempted the natural heritage protection under the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, 2017 from applying to the proposed waste facility site.

FSF filed a judicial review application in court challenging the Minister’s decision. The Court ruled that the Minister had acted beyond the scope of his authority and struck down the Transitional Regulation. In its decision, the Court noted that the Minister’s decision was “antithetical to the values underlying the rule of law”.

Court Hears Legal Challenges Against Ontario Bill 197

The Ontario Divisional Court recently held a four-day hearing on judicial review applications brought by CELA clients, other environmental groups, and Indigenous communities against Bill 197’s sweeping changes to the Environmental Assessment Act (EAA). The EAA generally applies to undertakings that may pose adverse environmental or socio-economic impacts, and establishes various processes which enable low-income individuals, vulnerable communities, and other interested persons to participate in information-gathering and decision-making under the Act. However, the controversial EAA changes in Bill 197 – together with an expansion of provincial powers to unilaterally issue Ministerial zoning orders under the Planning Act – were passed by the Ontario Legislature in July 2020 without public notice and comment opportunities under the province’s Environmental Bill of Rights. The Court has reserved its decision in this matter.

More Stalling by Federal Government on Indigenous Jurisdiction Regulation under the Impact Assessment Act

Earlier this year, CELA issued a press release on behalf of our client Kebaowek First Nation (KFN) to urge the federal Cabinet to immediately pass a key regulation under Canada’s Impact Assessment Act that would recognize and entrench Indigenous jurisdiction when information-gathering and decision-making occurs under the Act in relation to environmentally significant projects (i.e. pipelines).

Incredibly, Canada has still not committed to a clear timeline for this overdue Indigenous jurisdiction regulation, which negatively impacts not only KFN’s involvement on the ongoing Gazoduq pipeline impact assessment, but also a host of other impact assessments that KFN is involved in.  Read the full update on our website.

Lagoon.  Photo Credit, Ghislain Tillard

Law Reform Updates

Addressing Lead in Drinking Water: We Did Part of the Job, Now Let’s Finish It

Fourteen years ago, the Ontario government made significant progress in addressing lead in drinking water through a comprehensive regulatory scheme, but this only addressed part of the problem. Lead is still leaching into Ontarians’ drinking water through lead service lines (LSLs) and posing significant health risks. LSLs must be removed to protect public health. In this blog, CELA looks to the United States and highlights the proactive approach that the US government is taking to address lead in drinking water and urges the Ontario government to take a similar approach.

Canada and Ontario Renew their Commitment to the Great Lakes

CELA congratulates the Governments of Ontario and Canada on signing the new Canada-Ontario Agreement on Great Lakes Water Quality and Ecosystem Health (COA), which renews their collaborative commitment to protect and restore freshwater health in the Great Lakes – St. Lawrence River Basin. Taking effect on June 1, 2021, the 9th agreement, marking the 50th anniversary of the signing of the first COA in 1971, was released publicly yesterday.

We are pleased to see that this COA contains a number of improvements for protecting the health of our waters that are in line with recommendations that CELA and our collaborators made in 2019. For example, that the parties jointly report on progress, and that each Annex has been consistently structured to include the intention, results, and responsibilities for each level of government in a more transparent and accountable fashion. There are also commitments on key pollutants (plastics and road salts).  

Importantly, First Nations and Métis representatives will be invited to discuss annual priorities and actions with COA Executive Committee co-chairs, as well as being invited to participate in COA Executive Committee meetings.

We look forward to working with our government partners to implement these measures, including a fully-funded agreement that prioritizes accountability measures and a commitment to transparent reporting on implementation. 

As CELA reviews the details of this new COA agreement, we look forward to providing additional resources to our community of water champions who engaged with the COA consultation in 2019 and are committed to its implementation and the protection of our freshwater resources.

Inside CELA

Faces of CELA – Chris McLaughlin
CELA’s work on Healthy Great Lakes is greatly enhanced by the contributions and knowledge of our excellent Healthy Great Lakes Advisory Committee. We’re pleased to introduce Chris McLaughlin, Executive Director of the Bay Area Restoration Council. Chris has been a part of our Advisory Committee for three years – you can learn more about him on our blog.

Have Your Say

We Need Our Conservation Authorities – Public Consultation

The provincial government has initiated the first (of three) steps toward implementing remaining changes to Ontario’s Conservation Authorities Act that have been on the books for a couple of years.

CELA, as expressed in our submission and recap, remains dismayed that the Ontario government is limiting the role and responsibilities of conservation authorities. In order to ensure that Ontario is equipped to be resilient to a changing climate – with the wilder and wetter weather that comes along with it – we need to invest in and enhance the role of integrated watershed management in land-use decision-making.

That said, we have the opportunity, as guaranteed by Ontario’s Environmental Bill of Rights, to participate in the decision-making regarding the implementing regulations. Phase 1 is open for public comment until June 27, 2021.

For more context and information on the consultation, read CELA Special Projects Counsel Anastasia Lintner’s blog on our website.

Dutchman’s Breeches, Dufferin County. Illustration Credit, Linda Pim

Webinars & Resources

Water Conversations – Episode Two, Growing the Greenbelt

CELA, Environmental Defence and the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance are hosting “Episode Two” of Water Conversations on Wednesday, June 16th from 6:30-8:30pm ET. Taking place once a quarter for two hours, these in-depth discussions provide water champions a chance to share their expertise, learn from others, and determine the best path forward for actions needed to ensure healthy waters. 

This episode will focus on coordinating efforts to maintain momentum around the Ontario government’s consultation to grow the size and further enhance the quality of the Greenbelt. More information and a registration link are available on our website.