Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment has completed its technical review of 14 requests to elevate the Melancthon II Environmental Screening Report (ESR), and is expected soon to complete its consultations with the affected First Nations communities.
Elevation, or boosting, would mean that Canadian Hydro Developers Inc. (CHD) would be required to complete a full environmental assessment rather than the simpler, yet exhaustive, ESR that it has already done.
Neither CHD nor the ministry has predicted what the decision would be. However, lawyers for the company were confident at recent Ontario Municipal Board pre-hearings that the decision would be rendered in early March.
Before construction of the 88- turbine, 132-megawatt Melancthon II project can begin, CHD must overcome two hurdles, environmental approvals and zoning.
It is the zoning that’s before the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) in hearings for both Amaranth and Melancthon townships that could take as long as 10 weeks at the end of the summer.
In a news release, CHD says that in addition to the environmental permits, “the Company is in a municipal planning process with the two townships in which Melancthon II will be situated. Canadian Hydro has brought proceedings before the Ontario Municipal Board to approve amendments to the Official Plans, re-zoning bylaws and site plan agreements in the two local townships.
“The Company filed notices with the OMB in July 2006 on the planning matters. At prehearings, the OMB set hearing dates of July 30 and September 11, 2007 to decide the planning issues. The Company will be assessing the impact, if any, of these OMB hearing dates on the construction schedule and capital costs of Melancthon II in the coming months. Canadian Hydro remains confident that all issues will be dealt with fairly through the approvals process.”
The role of the OMB on all matters that come before it is to rule on planning issues, and hearing officer Susan Schiller emphasized that during the pre-hearings at Dundalk and Laurel. At the same time, she suggested that parties and participants to the hearings get together with their issues, for and against the project, in an effort to consolidate their presentations.
Even so, the combined hearings could take as long as 10 weeks in August, September and into October, provided that the hearings proceed for both townships, and that all parties and participants wish to be heard.
The OMB hearings more or less coincide with the Ontario Power Authority announcement Tuesday of the first contracts under the Standard Offer Program for generators of less than 10 megawatts of electricity from renewable resources – including wind, solar, water and biomass.
Agriculture Minister Leona Dombrowsky hailed the announcements as not only a boost to green energy, but as something of a boon to rural communities.
By Wes Keller
1 March 2007
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