There are at least two ways to avoid her dilemma becoming disaster. Will she take one of them?
June 29 2017: This is the first in a series of Blogs by Rod McLeod, retired lawyer, former Ontario Deputy Minister, Environment (with the Liberals) and earlier, Public Safety (with the Conservatives) after a time as Chief Crown Prosecutor and, latterly, 25 years of environmental law practice, currently, Board member, SOS GREAT LAKES.
Background: Premier Wynne’s Government owns Ontario Power Generation Inc. (OPG). Kathleen Wynne, as head of the Government, has allowed OPG to continue to plan to build a nuclear waste dump on the shore of Lake Huron, the central of the five Great Lakes that provide drinking water to 40 million people in Canada and the U.S. This Deep Geologic Repository (DGR) would hold 400,000 cubic metres of Intermediate and Low Level Waste (I&LLW). ILW can include reactor parts and other decommissioning waste that will remain dangerously radioactive for over hundreds of thousands of years. When the material leaks, as every other Deep Geologic Repository (DGR) in the world has, the rogue emissions will enter the Great Lakes, potentially causing unimaginable damage to the largest supply of fresh water in the world.
McKenna’s Dilemma: Allowing this dump on the shore of Lake Huron is a dangerous and unnecessary gamble with our drinking water and would be in stark contrast to many very important environmental protection principles and initiatives, on which the Trudeau Government was elected in 2015. At the same time, she may be reluctant to be seen to be opposing the ever-popular vote-getting ‘’green” nuclear energy industry led by OPG.
Recently, her April 2017 Expert Panel (EP) has given her at least two ways out. My purpose, with this series of Blogs, is to show the reader how and why she should take at least one of those escape routes. Moreover, she may be able do so without wavering on her Government’s support for the popular vote-getting “green” nuclear energy production processes.
The Minister’s Expert Panel (EP) eloquently laid out a principled plan to correct the errors and abuses in the current administration and enforcement of the Harper Government’s Canadian Environment Assessment Act (CEAA) (2012). It governed the first step approval of the DGR by the Harper-appointed Joint Review Panel (JRP) at Kincardine.
The EP’s mandate was to make recommendations to “restore public trust in EA (Environmental Assessment)” and “introduce new fair processes”.
The EP’s plan says technical, regulatory oversight of a proposal, such as a nuclear energy installation, requires one set of skills and considerations. It is quite a different set of skills and considerations that are required for the assessment and possible approval of the environmental, economic, social, cultural, community, political (including international) and public policy impacts of the proposal.
The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), which dominated the Kincardine Joint Review Panel (JRP), tried to perform both functions, and, as I will try to point out in this series, did a very bad job at each, especially the impact assessment function.
SOS GREAT LAKES is a grass roots group of Canadians and Americans, first formed when the Government of Canada reversed the long-held belief that nuclear waste should be buried in granite in the Canadian Shield, and tried to put High Level Radioactive Nuclear Waste (fuel rods, designated as HLW) in Saugeen Shores in Bruce County on Lake Huron. We started as SOS, Save Our Saugeen Shores, and, with help from others, were successful in stopping the proposed HLW Deep Geological Repository (DGR) in 2012.
With the announcement of the Kincardine Joint Review Panel (JRP) to consider and OPG proposal for an Intermediate and Low Level (I&LLW) DGR within one kilometre of Lake Huron at Kincardine, we re-branded as SOS GREAT LAKES and expanded our base as our membership spread throughout Canada and the U.S. Our members are people from all walks of life, some with an historical, geographic connection to one of the GREAT LAKES, and others who share our view that OPG’s proposal is wrong for a multitude of reasons, which we explore in this Blog series. Hundreds of Canadian and American counties, cities, towns, and even the Michigan Legislature, have passed resolutions condemning the proposal.
We appeared several times at the 2013-4 hearings at Kincardine but were met with a heavily slanted pro OPG panel and were unsuccessful.
We have filed an Application for Judicial Review of the Kincardine Decision in the Federal Court. The next step in the process is the Minister’s decision (set for Fall 2017) to reject or accept the JRP Report. If she rejects it, the Court Application becomes moot. If not, our Federal Court Application becomes a review of her decision. Each legal issue has a mirror image public policy/political issue that demands action. These blogs are an attempt to start that action.
As a former Deputy Minister Environment and Public Safety, and private sector environmental lawyer representing regulated entities, I believe the Minister’s new EP report provides her with a combination of law, logic and intellectual integrity that precludes her letting the Kincardine Report stand. It is not only a disastrously embarrassing precedent for Canada but, is in such stark contrast with her EP, as to have knowledgeable observers shaking their heads.
Her first escape route starts by looking closely at the collectivity of procedural and evidentiary errors in obvious breach of the JRP’s governing documents. These are discussed in Blog 2 (Community Acceptance), Blog 3 (International Obligations), Blog 4 (Abandoning Science), Blog 5 (Human Health), Blog 6 (Sustainability and Precautionary Principles), and Blog 7 (Safety).
The totality of the refusals to follow the law, and other grievous errors in these 6 subjects makes the JRP Report a giant step backward in Environmental/Impact Assessment at a time when she wants to restore faith in EA and introduce new fair processes according to the mandate given to her EP.
Can she summon the courage say so by rejecting the JRP report even though the nuclear energy industry (OPG) will cry foul, as it inevitably does in response to anyone who dares to disagree?
I urge readers to get past the NIMBYs and the YIMBYs (Yes, I like the money), and the OPG sound bites, hard sells and manipulated stats, and take a close look at the detail in these Blogs. Concerned citizens, plus responsible legislators in Canada and the U.S., should be interested in, and willing to, look closely at the detail. Some have and continue to do so. Others should. Hopefully, we can help. Our website shows possible next steps for you to help.
In the coming weeks, I will try to provide the reader with short analyses, issue by issue, to show the sharp contrast between what the JRP did and did not do, and what the EP says about how it should be done. I intend to demonstrate, issue by issue, how far the Kincardine JRP strayed from even the Harper Government’s minimal requirements (CEAA 2012), let alone from the historical principled approach the EP recommends restoring and improving. Her “blue ribbon” independent experts have given her the tools to do the job if she has the determination to do it.
But, what about the other side of her dilemma - not wanting to offend the ever should she do about the ever-popular vote-getting green nuclear energy industry? I hope my issue by issue analyses, culminating in Blog 8, will show her there is an alternative that need not offend the producers if they are prepared to open their minds to all the detail, including recent and current world-wide experience.
Rod McLeod, Director, SOS GREAT LAKES.