Browsing the archives for the Ceaa tag.

There is no Good Way to Execute a Bad Idea

Green Reality, South March Highlands

It appears that the City of Ottawa has two standards for engaging public consultation – one for East end citizens and another for the West end.

In Navan, the City will engage the public through the consultative Schedule C Environmental Assessment process when a development proposes a major water drainage area diversion across a watershed boundary that threatens environmentally sensitive wetland at Mer Bleue and an important woodland at Notre-Dame-des-Champs.

Yet in an identical situation in Kanata (where KNL is proposing a water diversion that threatens the National Capital Greenbelt, South March Highlands, and the Kizell Provincially Significant wetland) the City has cancelled plans to engage the public through a Schedule C EA, because it will allow KNL to conduct a pre-approved Schedule A/A+ EA involving no public consultation at all.

Worse the City has made this bad decision:

  • Against the professional opinion of 4 licensed water resources engineers who have all recommended that a Schedule C EA be done;
  • Against the objections of the National Capital Commission who is against a water diversion that would impact the nationally significant Greenbelt that lies downstream;
  • Against the objections of the Mississippi Valley Conservation Authority who is against a water diversion because it is contrary to the official Watershed Plan which is supposed to guide all development in both watersheds;
  • Against the provincial guidelines for development planning and storm water management that state that development should be planned on a watershed basis;
  • Contrary to KNL’s Conditions of Draft Subdivision Approval that requires conformance with the Watershed Plan;
  • Contrary to KNL’s Conditions of Draft Subdivision Approval that requires public consultation prior to any phase of development – which has NEVER occurred;
  • Ignoring the public safety risk to a nuclear isotope processing facility that lies on the floodplain less than 500 m downstream from Beaver Pond Dam.  According to a recent CEAA study, water infiltration is a recognized nuclear safety risk at that facility.

Is the planning department so inept that they seemingly apply two different standards in Ottawa?  Or is there another hand at work behind the scenes that has corrupted decision-making?

How can the City’s Planning Committee, allow such bad decision-making to be perpetuated?  You can ask the Chairperson yourself by emailing Peter.Hume@ottawa.ca .

If Mayor Jim Watson is sincere about improving the City’s consultative process he would ensure that all citizens be treated fairly by his administration.

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GHG Denial in TFD EA

Climate Change, South March Highlands

Opportunity Cost

The 2010 CEAA Screening Study for Terry Fox Road Part B contains a manditory section that summarizes the effects of the project on air quality.

Amazingly, the road is assessed as having No Significant impact due to tailpipe emissions and resultant smog and Greenhouse Gas (GHG) effect!

CEAA Summary of Effects On Air Quality

Table 6-5 From CEAA Screening Study

The US Environmental Protection Agency, however, measures vehicle emissions based on the distance driven.  By creating more roads, our cities expand the opportunity for vehicles to drive (generating more GHG in proportion to the length of the road) and create a disincentive for using public transit – roads are more convenient. 

By investing in Terry Fox Drive (TFD), the City has also created an opportunity cost of $47+ M by not putting the same amount of money into public transit.  As an example of the impact of this opportunity cost, currently there is some concern over the cost of student bus passes that are now manditory.  An expenditure of less than $5 M is probably sufficient to allow all students to ride the bus for free.  The $47 M being spent on the road would have enabled students to ride the bus for free for over 9 years!

Real Disclosure

The City should have disclosed that TFD will result in a net total annual emission of 90,324 Tonnes of GHG per year.

 The calculation for this is:

  • GHG increased by volume of traffic x amount of time of traffic on road.
    • Use avg traffic volume x 24 hrs x avg GHG emission per hour per vehicle
    • Assuming peak to average ratio is 10:1 and that peak hour volume is 2 hours x morning & afternoon
    • US EPA: light duty vehicle (incl passenger car but not SUV and miniVANs) = 337 gCO2 per mile
    • US EPA: SUV, miniVAN, pickup trucks are approx 1.3 x worse
    • US EPA: Combined Cars & Trucks = 1.13 x passenger = 1.13 x 337 = 380.81 gCO2 per mile driven
    • 380.81 x 1.6 = 609.296 gCO2 per km per vehicle = 0.6 kg CO2 per km
    • TFD is 4.8 Km long = 0.6 x 4.8 = 2.88 Kg CO2 per vehicle
    • Using unconstrained modal split disclosed in the 2004 EA Traffic Study of 8950 vehicles per hour (In+Out) 8950 x 2.88 = 25776 Kg CO2 per peak hr
    • 8 x 25776 / 1000 = 206.208 tC per day from peak plus 16 x .1 x 25776 / 1000 = 41.2416 tC non-peak per day
    • 206.2 + 41.24 = 247.44 tC per day x 365 = 90,315.6 tC per annu
  • GHG absorption decreased by loss of forest cover due to clear-cutting for the road:
    • Use hectares removed by road times GHG absorption per hectare
      • 4.67 ha Dry-Fresh Sugar Maple-Ironwood Deciduous Forest
      • 0.34 ha Dry-Fresh White Ash-Hardwood Deciduous Forest
      • 5.61 ha Fresh-Moist White Pine-Hardwood Mixed Forest
      • 0.37 ha Young Deciduous Forest
      • 4.67 + 0.34 + 5.61 + 0.37 = 10.99 ha
    • 10.99 x 0.75 = 8.2425 Tonnes Carbon absorbed per year
    • According to David Suzuki Foundation, other GHG removal per hectare of forest is 60 kg/ha = 0.06 t/ha
      • 0.75 + 0.60 = 1.35 GHG per ha
    • 10.99 x 1.35 = 14.8365 Tonnes of GHG per year

 Net change in GHG = 90315.6 + 8.24 = 90323.84 Tonnes per year

Lack of Accountability

The analysis used in the previous section is based on the City of Ottawa’s own traffic study statistics which are based on unreasonable traffic volumes.  Nonetheless the City was obligated to disclose the impact based on the numbers that they used to justify the road.

The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) was also obligated to ensure that the disclosure was accurate.  How could they have accepted an error of over 90 MegaTonnes of GHG emission?

We deserve much more responsibility and accountability from our public servants at both the Municipal and Federal levels!

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Ontario’s Broken EA Process

Canadian Politics, Legislative Gaps

No Checks and Balances

If the Harper government has their way, the limited responsibility of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) will be downloaded onto the provinces.  In the current budget, the federal government has already done that for all projects funded under the pork barrel commonly known as the Infrastructure Fund.

In Ontario, this means that environmental responsibility will be downloaded onto an environmental assessment (EA) process that the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario  (ECO) has outright declared as “broken”.

Ontario’s environmental protection process is broken in so many ways that a full discussion of these problems is well beyond the scope of this blog.  Instead, we will focus on arguably the most crucial issue – the almost total lack of checks and balances in the EA process.

The Ontario Environmental Assessment Act (EAA) sets out a decision-making process to be used by government ministries, municipalities, and the private sector that is intended to promote sound environmental planning.

The EAA establishes a minimum process for EAs and further defines that Classes of projects that routinely occur (such as municipal roads), can be defined by the Ministry of Environment (MoE) along with a Class EA process that such projects are to follow.

For example, the MoE decided long ago that the Class EA process for municipal projects is defined by the Municipal Class EA (MCEA) process and that the responsibility for the MCEA process was to be downloaded onto the Municipal Engineers Association of Ontario.  This is a professional association of the civil engineers who build municipal roads and infrastructure – having no expertise in ecological or natural environment matters.

Furthermore, since everyone expects that municipalities and provinical government ministries and agencies will act responsibly, the EAA  defines that Class EA projects are to be “proponent-driven”.

This puts class projects into a different league than those done by the private sector.  There are no checks on the Class process followed by a proponent, nor are there counter-balances that can be used to enforce compliance even if process irregularities are reported.  Meanwhile private sector proponents have to implement a process monitored by the MoE, creating a Do As I Say and Not As I Do situation.

This also means that provincial authorities such as the MoE and Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) have actually no authority to tell municipalities how to conduct an EA.  At best, they provide an advisory role to municipalities and, except for their role in granting various permits that may be required for a project, have no authority to tell a municipality to shape up.

For example, the MoE cannot tell the City of Ottawa that the Terry Fox Project is overdue for public consultation and is unable to compell the City to review a decade’s worth of changes to the project with the residents who will be affected by it.

The MCEA process relies entirely on the City determining, on its own, that sufficient changes to project scope or context have occured to warrant the effort of preparing an EA Addendum (which effectively restarts the EA process).

No Public Comment

Ontario’s Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR) doesn’t help matters because, under Section 32, ministreies do not have to provide an opportunity for public comment for permits issued to implement a project that has been approved by the EAA.

This means that once an MCEA project is approved by the filing of a Notice of Completion for the EA that was done, there is only a narrow 30-day window in which it can be challenged.

Even though the project may not be implemented for years afterward, or may even be changed in scope subsequently, there is no opporuntity for further public intervention in the process.

Meanwhile a municipality can make significant changes, apply for permits, and obtain approvals for those changes all without public review and comment.  Depending on the permit application involved, there may be a limited window for comments on the application, but this is spotty and relies on public monitoring of little-known registries where these permit applications are posted.

Take the example of permits to take water.  Private-sector proposals to take water from wells, streams or lakes are posted on the Ontario Environmental Registry for public comment in case there may be concerns about significant environmental impact.  If the public continues to have concerns once a permit to take water is issued, the EBR provides the right to request an appeal.  An independent tribunal applies strict criteria to decide whether or not to grant the appeal, hears the case if an appeal is granted, or facilitates a settlement.

But if a municipality wants to take water, it is only required to go through an EAA process and no EBR notice is required.  Hence a change to a project involving the routing of a storm or sanitary sewer can be done silently after the 30-day Notice of Completion window has expired.

The public misses important opportunities to provide input on municipal water-taking approvals even though water quality and quantity issues have been of concern for many Ontarians since the Walkerton incident.

Enter The Clowns

The net result is that:

  • municipalities can and do assert that they are compliant with the EA process when often they are not.  In fact, they can make a total mockery of the process and get away with it.
  • the municipal EA process is effectively regulated by a non-governmental body having no public accountability.
  • there is no ecological natural “environment” expertise mandated in the EA process at all.
  • there are no checks on the process and even if there were, there are no balancing forces to assure the outcome intended by the EAA.
  • there is no tribunal that the public can appeal to when a municipality violates their trust.  Their only recourse is an expensive application to the court system where they will face an opponent funded by their own tax-dollars!

Is this how we want to protect our environment?

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