The Governments of Canada, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador are seeking public comment on plans for offshore wind development in Atlantic Canada. Over the coming weeks, stakeholders must decide how to best contribute. Here is the important information you need to know.
In April of 2022, the federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change decided to initiate the Regional Assessment of Offshore Wind Development (the "Assessment") to inform future offshore wind development in Canada's Atlantic waters. Because jurisdiction over energy projects in the region may be shared between federal and provincial governments, the Assessment is intended to be coordinated between the governments of Canada, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador.
Regulation of offshore wind development in Atlantic Canada is intended to be the responsibility of the newly renamed Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Energy Board and the Canada-Newfoundland Offshore Energy Board ("Energy Boards"). The Energy Boards work with the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada (the "Agency") to ensure that the environmental impacts of offshore development are properly understood early in the project. Previously, the Energy Boards were focused on offshore petroleum projects. The recent interest in renewable energy has resulted in an update to the Energy Boards' regulatory tools. The main objective of the Assessment is to guide governments' understanding of the effects of Atlantic Canada's offshore wind activities, in support of sustainable economic development.
How far along is the Assessment?
The Assessment is currently at the planning phase. For the past several months, the Agency has worked with Natural Resources Canada, as well as the governments of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador, to create a representative body and to plan and develop various draft agreements and terms of reference in connection with the Assessment.
In October, the Agency published the draft agreement with the governments of Canada and Nova Scotia (the NS Agreement"), the draft agreement with the governments of Canada and Newfoundland and Labrador (the "NL Agreement") and draft regional terms of reference (the "TOR") to guide the committee that guides the Assessment (the "Committee"). The proposed NS Agreement, NL Agreement and TOR are available on the Agency's website.
The published materials indicate that the Assessment will: (1) identify optimal areas for future wind development; and (2) provide information regarding existing conditions, potential ramifications, and mitigation strategies to inform and improve future impact assessments.
The Agency is now asking for the public's input on the three documents. Stakeholders may benefit by engaging legal counsel to assess how to best contribute to this consultation.
What do the proposed draft documents entail?
Nova Scotia Draft Agreement
The NS Agreement is a nine-page agreement between the Government of Canada and the Government of Nova Scotia. In brief, the NS Agreement's key points are as follows:
- The goal of the NS Agreement is to establish a Committee to conduct a regional assessment of offshore wind energy development in the Canada-NS Offshore Area;
- The goal of the Assessment is to provide information, knowledge, and analysis regarding future offshore wind development activities in the relevant area to inform and improve future planning and licensing, among other things;
- The composition of the Committee that will conduct the Assessment will include representatives of both levels of governments;
- There will be three Advisory groups during the Assessment process:
- The Indigenous Knowledge and Perspectives Advisory Group;
- The Scientific and Technical Information and Analysis Advisory Group; and
- The Fisheries Advisory Group and
- The Committee's responsibility is to document results and publicize all findings and reports on the Canadian Impact Assessment Registry website.
Newfoundland & Labrador Draft Agreement
The proposed NL Agreement differs from the NS Agreement in that the NL Agreement includes the Innu-aimun and Inuktitut peoples in Newfoundland and Labrador as key stakeholders.
Regional Assessment Terms of Reference
The proposed TOR articulates the mandate and scope of the Committee's work. Notably, the TOR includes references to:
- Indigenous Peoples' pivotal role in the Assessment;
- The specificities of the relationship between the Committee and the Advisory Groups;
- The mandate of the three noted Advisory Groups;
- The specific steps and analysis the Committee are to engage in;
- The Committee's record keeping and reporting responsibilities; and
- The mandatory schedule that the Committee will follow throughout the Assessment process.
All members of the public may submit their comments online by visiting the Assessment's home page on the Canadian Impact Assessment Registry. The deadline for submitting comments is November 26, 2022, at 11:59PM. All comments received will be published online as part of the Assessment file.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.