DGR decision could be delayed until 2019

Section: 
News

 

By Barb McKay

 

There could be a new federal government in power before a decision is made on Ontario Power Generation’s (OPG) proposed project to build a deep geologic repository to store low- and intermediate-level nuclear waste.

 

Federal Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna made a request to OPG on Aug. 21 to update its cumulative effects analysis of the potential cumulative effects of the project on physical and cultural heritage. The request is in response to a letter to McKenna from the Saugeen Ojibway Nation (SON) asking for additional information.

 

“In this letter, the Saugeen Ojibway Nation reiterated that the project should not move forward until the Nation's communities are supportive of it, pursuant to the Saugeen Ojibway Nation -Ontario Power Generation Commitment,” McKenna said in a letter to OPG. “The Saugeen Ojibway Nation stated that through this community-driven process ‘Anishnaabekiing, Anishnaabe lnwewin, Anishaabe Naaknigewin- Our Territory, Our Voice, Our Decisions’, their communities will be able to make a well-informed decision on whether they can support the project.

 

“Your commitment to not move forward with the project without the support of the Saugeen Ojibway Nation…is an example of how reconciliation practices can be implemented on the ground. I recognize and commend you for your work in this regard and encourage you to continue to work collaboratively with the Saugeen Ojibway Nation. The Saugeen Ojibway Nation have indicated that the potential impacts of the project to the Nation can only be identified, understood and resolved through a process with the Nation and its communities.”

 

The environmental assessment for the project began in 2006. OPG’s environmental assessment report was the subject of hearings by a federally-appointed Joint Review Panel, which were held in Kincardine in Port Elgin in 2013 and 2014. In May 2015, the Panel submitted its recommendation to the government that the project should proceed.

 

Neal Kelly, OPG’s director of media, issues and information management, corporate affairs, told The Independent last week that OPG is currently doing the additional work required by the ministry, but that is only the beginning of the process.

 

“SON has indicated that its own community process may take a year. In the meantime, OPG remains engaged in respectful, ongoing dialogue with SON,” he said.

 

Kelly said that after OPG is able to submit its update cumulative effects analysis the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) will complete a report to the minister on OPG's responses to the additional information requests. There may be a public comment period, and then the minister's decision on the Environmental Assessment (EA) would follow.

 

“Depending on the SON timeline, this could put the Minister's decision in 2019 or beyond,” Kelly said. “Even after EA approval, OPG would still need to seek a DGR construction licence from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.”

McKenna said she will make her decision “based on science and traditional knowledge, taking into account the Joint Review Panel Report and the report by the CEAA on the additional information, including the views of Indigenous Peoples, the public and other stakeholders.”

 

It is possible, however, that McKenna may not be the environment and climate change minister when the CEAA submits its report to the ministry, depending on the timeline. The next federal election is slated for Oct. 21, 2019.

 

Last week, Municipality of Kincardine Mayor Anne Eadie, on behalf of council, sent an letter to McKenna reiterating the Municipality’s support for OPG’s project to build a DGR at the Bruce Power site. The letter was sent after 104 mayors of Ontario municipalities and United States municipalities bordering Lake Huron jointly submitted a letter to the minister stating that they oppose the project.