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Ontario protects water with new proposed fee on bottlers

In the wake of climate change impacts, Ontario is beginning to take more stringent steps to ensure that fresh water resources are protected. The Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change has proposed a new fee for water bottlers that use groundwater.

Water bottle companies such as Nestle pay $3.71 for one million litres of fresh groundwater. Yes, that’s just under four dollars for a million litres of water — a natural resource that is slowly dissipating. The Wednesday announcement will propose that these companies pay a mandatory minimum fee of $500 for one million litres, something that is being widely celebrated by environmentalists across the province. Though critics may consider the fee high, it would cover the costs of managing the groundwater taken by the water bottlers, as well as scientific research, policies and outreach to further protect the resource.

Other amendments that Ontario is proposing include new procedural and technical requirements to make water bottling more transparent in the public eye and to increase scientific requirements when testing the water. The proposed changes are open to public consultation until March 20, 2017 and is available on the Environmental Registry.

Ontario has been actively working towards protecting the fresh water resources in the province, finalizing a two-year moratorium on new or expanded permits for water bottlers to take fresh groundwater resources. The limitation on permits also changed from 10 years to five years. The proposal was approved on Dec. 16, 2016 after public consultations came to an end.

In the wake of climate change, fresh groundwater resources are becoming more valuable as water shortages could easily become a reality. After it was discovered earlier in 2016 that Nestle was taking more than one million litres of water a day with an expired permit, the government and its citizens began to seriously consider whether this was appropriate. This ultimately led to the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change taking the threat of water shortages seriously and is proposing courageous and sweeping changes to how water bottling is currently managed in the province. Women’s Post will be following this issue with great interest.

The environment is screwed with Donald Trump as president

If the environment wasn’t under imminent threat before, it most certainly is now that the United States elected Donald Trump as their newest president.

President, Donald Trump (I can’t believe that string of words in now a reality) has proposed to cancel President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, threatened to pull out of the Paris Climate Change Agreement, and famously claimed in a tweet that climate change was a ‘Chinese Hoax’. Trump’s various claims do not bode well for the planet and its future.

So what does Trump’s presidential win mean for the environment? Essentially, it means that the planet is in peril.

Trump represents an American ideology that focuses solely on the economy at the expense of lowering carbon emissions. At a conference in Bismarck, North Dakota in May 2016, he supported oil fracking and also stated he would minimize the U.S commitments to the Paris Agreement. The U.S is currently the second largest producer of oil and Trump’s agenda to push fossil fuels even more will increase carbon emissions tenfold. He hinted that the failing oil economy can be resolved if the United States exploited the lands that have been previously considered off limits, including the Outer Continental Shelf. He also wants to push more production in the non-renewable energy sector. This would be a short-term solution and would harm the economy, not to mention the environment, in the long term. By over-flooding the energy sector with more oil through fracking, it would further lower the value per barrel of oil and would decimate even more land that is already threatened in the United States.

Trump has publicly stated several times that he would wipe Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which was a fruit of labour for the democratic president. Within the Clean Power Plan, the environmental protection agency (EPA) gave each state the power to decide for themselves how to lower carbon emissions in power plants by using renewables or nuclear energy instead of carbon pricing. States were supposed to submit plans by 2016-2018 and would start cutting emissions by 2022 at latest. The EPA estimated that the plan would lower power plant emissions by 32 per cent by 2030 as compared to rates in 2005. Trump has claimed he intends to cancel this plan and has vaguely threatened to get rid of the EPA all together. He has not recommended any alternative plans to lower carbon emissions.

The future of the environment in the United States looks dark, but there is hope. Strong environmental advocacy groups such as the Sierra Club, one of the largest environmental advocacy groups in the United States that has been fighting to protect the earth since 1892, are not going to give up.

There are many other groups that are preparing to continue the fight for climate change despite this unwelcome change of leadership in the country.

Trump may surprise his citizens by not canceling environmental agreements, though I won’t be holding my breath. It is a historical and frightening time to be living in such close proximity to a country that has a leader who cares so little about climate change. We all breathe the same air and drink the same water. We can only hope he was serious about creating clean air and clean water (the only vague environmental commitments he has made), and is willing to see that climate change goals are inextricably linked to providing those very things.

Otherwise, Canada may want to start building that wall.