Liberal government blindsides geothermal industry

June 6, 2012

QUEEN’S PARK — The Liberal government has, yet again, rushed to implement a new regulation without properly considering the costs to industry. This time Ontario’s geothermal businesses are being hit, PC Environment Critic and Kitchener-Conestoga MPP Michael Harris said today.

“Time and again, we’ve seen the Liberals rush to introduce kneejerk regulatory changes when a much more balanced and responsible solution that includes broader industry consultation is required,” Harris said.

On April 20, 2012, a driller encountered natural gas while drilling a geothermal borehole in Oakville. This incident triggered a series of hasty responses from the Liberal government, which led to the implementation of Ontario Regulation 98/12 on May 18. The regulation’s requirement that geothermal companies must obtain an Environmental Compliance Approval before drilling prevents businesses from starting new projects at least until August.

Ted Kantrowitz, vice president of the Canadian GeoExchange Coalition (CGC), said his organization had indicated to the Ministry of Environment for more than three years that the geothermal industry was open to developing a regulation for the sector.

Then, in the week leading up to the introduction of Reg. 98/12, CGC entered into talks with MOE about the incident that occurred in Oakville, he said.

“But at no point, did MOE officials mention to us that they were planning to introduce a new regulation for our industry,” Kantrowitz said. “In fact, we didn’t learn about the Ministry’s regulatory change until the day the Minister introduced it.”

The Liberals’ hastily conceived regulation is yet more proof that they don’t even follow their own regulatory policy, which states that all regulations are to be introduced in a “predictable manner” and include “a clear assessment of the total costs and benefits” to business, Harris said.

“This is about fairness, transparency and accountability. Clearly, geothermal businesses indentified the need for a regulation for their industry,” Harris said. “But the Liberals should have at least followed their own policy and properly consulted with these businesses before issuing what has effectively become a stop-work order for the industry until August.”