On September 25th, 2014, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne released 30 mandate letters she has written her ministers – these letters provide priorities and action items that Premier Wynne expects each minister to work on during their tenure.
We took some time to review the mandate letters in relation to some of the key interest areas of our clients (see our summary assessment post) – businesses, Aboriginal communities, municipalities with interests in (click on the links for summaries from the mandate letters for each topic):
- climate change, greenhouse gas reduction, and cleantech
- water and the natural environment,
- social entrepreneurship,
- low cost natural gas,
- Aboriginal community wellbeing and social & economic development,
- mining and the Ring of Fire.
In this post we focus on Low Cost Natural Gas - We are pleased to see the importance Premier Wynne places on our core interests, especially her focus on low cost natural gas - an important, low-cost energy resource for Ontario that is coming to the province in increasing quantities from shale gas resources in nearby Pennsylvania and Ohio.
We do note that while there is emphasis in many other mandate letters, including the Ministry of Energy's mandate, for a focus on Aboriginal interests, that focus is missing from the Premier's focus on natural gas. We see this as an interesting ommision that could easily be addressed through the Ministry of Energy and the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs. Aboriginal communities can be biogas producers, can also benefit from extension of pipeline infrastructure, and can benefiit from advances in gas-fired generation and liquid natural gas or compressed natural gas supply.
We also see synergy between the push to get natural gas pipelines out to rural and remote areas, the push for cleantech and clean energy, the desire for further waste diversion, and the challenges of agricultural nutrient management and related source water quality issues. We see potential in the mandates to advance research, pilots and incentives for rural/agricultural biogas producers to use available waste products and additional waste diversion to put clean biogas into the natural gas pipeline transportation system. Natural gas pipelines don't necessarily have to be one-way delivery systems - there is potential to have rural/agricultural biogas producers contribute clean energy into the systems. This is beginning to happen in other provinces such as B.C.
We strongly support the Minister of Energy's six principles as set out in the Long Term Energy Plan. However, thus far we have only seen thes principles applied to the TransCanada Energy East project. Given the major natural gas pipeline re-purposing and expansion happening across southern Ontario, tied to shale gas imports from Pennsylvania and Ohio, we look forard to the Ministry of Energy and the Ontario Energy Board stepping up apply these principles to other major pipeline infrastructure across southwestern Ontario, the GTA and to the east of the GTA.
Finally, as we note in a previous post with respect to comments from Spectra/Union Gas, there is potential for natural gas to play an important energy role in the Ring of Fire.
Premier Wynne's mandate items around low cost natural gas include:
Ministry of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure
- Fulfilling our government’s commitment to create a new Natural Gas Access Loan — which will provide up to $200 million over two years to help communities partner with utilities to extend access to natural gas supplies. I also ask that you establish a $30-million Natural Gas Economic Development Grant to accelerate projects with clear economic development potential. Your goal is to provide consumers in underserved communities more energy choices, make commercial transportation more affordable, attract new industry to Ontario, and benefit our agricultural producers.
Ministry of Agriculture
- Supporting the work of the Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure and the Minister of Energy to establish and implement natural gas initiatives. The programs will be funded under our $130-billion infrastructure plan and will give consumers in underserved communities more energy choices, make commercial transportation more affordable, attract new industry to Ontario, and benefit our agricultural producers. Your goal is to help ensure that Ontario residents and industries are able to share in affordable supplies of natural gas.
Ministry of Energy
- Supporting programs led by the Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure to help ensure that Ontario residents and industries are able to share in affordable supplies of natural gas. These programs, outlined below, will give consumers in underserved communities more energy choices, make commercial transportation more affordable, attract new industry to Ontario and benefit our agricultural producers.
- Helping the Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure establish and implement a new Natural Gas Access Loan. Our government will provide up to $200 million over two years through this program to help communities partner with utilities to extend access to natural gas supplies.
- Helping the Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure establish and implement a $30 million Natural Gas Economic Development Grant to accelerate projects with clear economic development potential.
- Working with the Ontario Energy Board to incorporate the Conservation First policy into local distributor planning processes for electricity and natural gas utilities — and the natural gas demand-side management framework under development.
- Working with the ministry’s agencies and with municipal partners to ensure that municipalities participate meaningfully and effectively in the decision-making process for the placement of renewable energy projects, including wind and natural gas.
- Continuing to intervene in regulatory hearings about major pipeline proposals that directly affect Ontario. You will ensure that these interventions are consistent with Ontario’s six pipeline principles, as outlined in the LTEP.
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