Nova Scotia, Newfoundland amend 'Atlantic Accords' through Bill C-69 to include offshore renewables

Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson hopes the amendments make good on commitments to provide reliable, 'clean' power abroad.

Nova Scotia, Newfoundland amend 'Atlantic Accords' through Bill C-69 to include offshore renewables
Facebook/Premier of NL and Facebook/Tim Houston
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With the Supreme Court appeal of Bill C-69 in limbo, Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia are using the Impact Assessment Act to amend the Atlantic Accords to include offshore renewable energy.

In addition to establishing Offshore Energy Regulators to support marine conservation, both provinces will receive 'new powers' to regulate offshore renewable energy projects such as floating windmills and subsea tide turbines. 

The Impact Assessment Act authorizes federal regulators to examine the effects of any significant infrastructure project, such as highways, mines, and pipelines, for environmental impact and social issues.

Natural Resources Canada expects 'improved alignment' between the amended accords and Bill C-69 to "ensure a clear, consistent and predictable regulatory regime in federal–provincial jointly managed offshore areas."

On March 22 and 23, Alberta and Saskatchewan argued before the Supreme Court of Canada that the legislation violated Section 92A of the Constitution Act and overstepped into provincial jurisdiction. A ruling has yet to be delivered.

Nova Scotia, alongside P.E.I., did not join the cause.

Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson hopes the amendments make good on commitments to provide reliable, clean power abroad.

"Canada has enormous potential to become a global supplier of choice for clean energy and technology; these amendments to the Atlantic Accords will help us realize that potential," said Wilkinson. "The amendments are a necessary step…to effectively pursue the economic opportunity presented by offshore renewable energy generation and associated opportunities, including hydrogen production."

Newfoundland's energy minister, Andrew Parsons, said the federal amendments are "consistent with our government's commitment to achieving net zero by 2050."

Last month, Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston blamed Ottawa for causing significant delays leading to the cancellation of a 'green energy' tidal project in the Bay of Fundy.

"Scottish company Sustainable Marine has been active in Nova Scotia, specifically…around Digby, for the last few years. The company has been producing energy from the tides of Digby but is packing up and moving on," said Houston in a video posted to social media.

In April, Sustainable Marine told the Department of Fisheries and Oceans it would revoke its proposed tidal project as burdensome government red tape hindered the tidal power expansion. They received nearly $30 million from Natural Resources Canada for the project — the most significant taxpayer investment in tidal power.

Sustainable Marine CEO Jason Hayman told the National Observer they provided comprehensive environmental monitoring data to the Fisheries and Oceans department. It revealed no harm to fish or other marine animals in the local environment. 

However, the department revealed the proposed project site had two at-risk species — the white shark and the inner Bay of Fundy Atlantic salmon — present at the Minas Passage. "We have a responsibility to make sure that good projects go ahead," said department spokesperson Jeff Woodland.

The Minas Passage has nearly 7,000 megawatts (MW) of energy potential, of which 2,400 MW would be extracted without negatively impacting sea levels — enough to power two million homes in Atlantic Canada.

According to 2019 data, over half (51%) of Nova Scotia's energy generation came from coal, while less than a quarter (22%) came from natural gas.

"Nova Scotia has a real opportunity to be a global leader in marine renewables. I want our province to seize this opportunity," said Houston. "Unfortunately, the federal government isn't allowing us to develop our resources." 

He accused them of "dragging their feet" on the Bay of Fundy project and "holding [the] province back." The Fisheries and Oceans Department countered that it authorized four tidal projects in the area with "a clear regulatory pathway."

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