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Federal Government introduces amendments to expand the mandates of the two historic Atlantic Accord Acts to include offshore wind energy

David Randell, Sadira Jan, Robert Grant, K.C., Greg Moores, G. John Samms, and James Gamblin

The recent tabling of federal legislation is an important step for offshore wind development in the offshore areas of Nova Scotia (“NS”) and Newfoundland and Labrador (“NL”).

On May 30, 2023, the Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Natural Resources, introduced Bill C-49: An Act to amend the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Atlantic Accord Implementation Act and the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Resources Accord Implementation Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.

Bill C-49 is required to modernize and amend the mandates of the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board (“CNSOPB”) and the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (“CNLOPB”) to create regulatory regimes for offshore wind development.

To date, oil and gas activities in the offshore areas of NS and NL have been regulated through the CNSOPB and CNLOPB. The boards are jointly organized by the federal government and NS and NL in light of concurrent or unsettled provincial and federal jurisdiction over offshore areas. Currently, the boards regulate all aspects of offshore oil and gas projects including licensing, compliance, exploration and decommissioning.

Bill C-49 expands the mandates of the CNSOPB and CNLOPB to provide for the regulation of “offshore renewable energy projects”, such as offshore wind projects. Accordingly, each of the CNSOPB and CNLOPB will be renamed the “Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Energy Regulator” and the “Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Energy Regulator”.

Other changes proposed by Bill C-49 include:

  • adding provisions to improve alignment with the Impact Assessment Act (IAA). The legislation sets out to establish a land tenure regime and a ministerial decision-making process regarding the issuance of submerged land licences to carry out offshore renewable energy projects; and
  • providing for the introduction of regulations concerning access to offshore infrastructure, and regulations to prohibit petroleum or renewable energy activities in areas that have been, or may be identified as, a conservation or protection area.

The proposed federal amendments establish a comprehensive framework for government-regulated development of offshore renewable energy projects to facilitate their growth and operation. With these pending federal amendments, provincial governments will introduce complementary legislation to ensure the harmonized implementation of these changes at both levels.

In September 2022, NS set a target of having of 5 GW of electricity supplied by offshore wind by 2030. The first call for bids is scheduled to be issued in 2025 for offshore leases.

An active member of the Canadian Renewable Energy Association, with networks and partners across the Atlantic region, Stewart McKelvey understands the environmental potential of the renewable energy sector and its potential for regional economic growth. With governments adapting to evolving regulatory systems, our dedicated Energy Practice Group is ready to assist.

This update is intended for general information only. If you have any questions on the above we would invite you to contact the authors or any other member of our Energy Group.

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