Stapleton Environmental Consulting in the news

Offshore wind energy in Newfoundland and Labrador has been getting a lot of coverage in the local media these last few weeks. I was pleased to add to the conversation, speaking to NTV News about the supply chain study I completed for the Newfoundland and Labrador Environmental Industry Association.

Our province has the ability to participate in the supply chain, largely due to our expertise in offshore oil and gas, but we need to be strategic. Being proactive is important so that we can be ready if this sector takes off - "first-in" will benefit most. But we also need to spend time filling the "knowledge gap" so that we can make informed decisions. 

I look forward to more discussions with developers, local businesses, governments, and communities as we explore the potential opportunities for our province in offshore wind.  See the segment at 32:00 at

Erin Stapleton Appointed to City and Provincial Boards

One of my core values is giving back to the community through volunteerism and leadership.

I am pleased to announce that I have been appointed to the City of St. John’s Local Board of Appeal and the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador Wilderness and Ecological Reserves Advisory Council. I look forward to working with my colleagues in serving our city and our province.

About the St. John’s Local Appeal Board
The St. John’s Local Board of Appeal is comprised of five individuals who have been appointed for a three-year term by the St. John’s Municipal Council. The Appeal Board is a body to which appeals can be made regarding decisions made by the City under the St. John’s Development Regulations with respect to: an application to undertake a development; a revocation of an approval or a permit to undertake a development; the issuance of a Stop Work Order pursuant to the Development Regulations; or a decision permitted under the Urban and Rural Planning Act, 2000. 

About the Wilderness and Ecological Reserves Advisory Council
The Wilderness and Ecological Reserves Advisory Council (WERAC) was created to advise the government on the creation and management of wilderness and ecological reserves. WERAC’s vision is the conservation and preservation of natural landscapes and seascapes in Newfoundland and Labrador for current and future generations through the timely establishment of a functioning network of protected areas throughout the province. Using an open and consultative process, WERAC accepts the following values: transparency, accountability, responsibility, stewardship of our natural heritage, and appreciation of our natural heritage.

Read the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador News Release here.

A new approach to federal EA - have your say

Over the past months, the Government of Canada has been reviewing our federal environmental and regulatory processes. An expert panel was selected to review the environmental assessment process, and standing committees were appointed to review the National Energy Board Act, Navigation Protection Act and the Fisheries Act.

The input of all stakeholders, no matter if we agree or disagree, is important if this new approach is to be balanced and effective.

The Government has now released a discussion paper to outline a new approach to environmental assessments and regulatory reviews, and is asking for our feedback by August 28. The report largely focuses on a new project assessment system, and touches on considerations for modernizing the National Energy Board, restoring lost protections to the Navigation Protection Act, and the enhancing protection for fish and fish habitat under the Fisheries Act.

As I’ve said before, my opinion as an impact assessment practitioner is only one perspective. The input of all stakeholders, no matter if we agree or disagree, is important if this new approach is to be balanced and effective.

I’ve summarized the project assessment section below, and encourage you to review the entire discussion paper and submit your comments online by August 28.

The synergy between offshore oil and gas and offshore wind

The Newfoundland and Labrador Oil and Gas Industries Association (NOIA) conference is underway. Over 1,000 delegates are in St. John’s to discuss exploration, production and development activities in Canada’s offshore oil and gas industry, and the future of the province.

With such a focus on offshore oil and gas in my city this week, there’s no better time to talk about how companies engaged in this sector can look to offshore wind energy as a diversification opportunity.

Offshore oil and gas companies can leverage their expertise to be successful in offshore wind.

I recently collaborated with the Newfoundland and Labrador Environmental Industry Association (NEIA) on a study of the province’s capacity to support an offshore wind energy sector (full report available here). In preparing the report, I drew upon multiple studies completed in Scotland that qualitatively and quantitatively assess how offshore oil and gas companies can leverage their expertise to be successful in offshore wind.

I encourage you to check out one report in particular, prepared by BVG Associates for Scottish Enterprise (available here), which identifies nine areas that present the greatest opportunities for oil and gas companies to diversify into offshore wind (BVG Associates 2016):

1. Project management - Oil and gas companies have the experience in managing complex projects in the offshore environment.

2. Array cables - Manufacturing array cables for offshore wind requires similar skills and equipment to oil and gas umbilical manufacture.

 3. Substation structures - These are typically one-off designs, similar in scale to oil and gas platforms.

 4. Turbine foundations - The fabrication skills used in oil and gas can be harnessed to produce serially manufactured structures.

5. Secondary steelwork - An accessible market for companies without the capacity for foundation manufacture and entry may not require new coastal facilities.

6. Cable installation - Most contractors in this market have oil and gas experience and have learned to adapt to the significant new challenges that the complexity of offshore wind contracts presents.

7. Installation equipment - A considerable number of companies have diversified from oil and gas into areas like cable handling equipment and trenching and burial tools.

8. Installation support services - Many oil and gas companies have experience of working offshore which can bring real benefits to the offshore wind industry in subsea services (e.g., diving and ROV services) and onshore activities (e.g., marine consultancy).

9. Maintenance and inspection services - Oil and gas experience in offshore logistics can shape evolving strategies in offshore wind.

Closer to home, the US offshore wind energy sector is taking off, and the importance of oil and gas experts in supporting offshore wind energy development is well-recognized. In fact, the theme of the 2017 Offshore Wind Executive Summit in Houston, Texas is “The parallels of wind, oil and gas.” I believe it’s only a matter of time before we see offshore wind in Canada and I know Newfoundland and Labrador, with our world-renowned offshore oil and gas expertise, is well-positioned to be a key player.

I see potential for this province in offshore wind. Feel free to contact me if you’d like to discuss this potential. I also invite you to join me and other like-minded firms in exploring opportunities as part of NEIA’s Offshore Wind Energy Working Group.

First project complete! Offshore wind supply chain study now available.

It's a great feeling that my first project as an independent consultant was completed for a local not-for-profit, highlighted economic opportunities for my home province, and focused on renewable energy. This is why I do what I do.

- Erin Stapleton, Principal, Stapleton Environmental Consulting

Stapleton Environmental Consulting was retained by the Newfoundland and Labrador Environmental Industry Association (NEIA) to identify the supply chain for offshore wind energy development and the capacity of Newfoundland and Labrador to support this new sector. 

The study is now complete, and results were shared by Erin Stapleton during her presentation at the NEIA Speaker Series on June 12, 2017. 

The report is now publicly available through NEIA. Read the press release and find the report here

Upcoming speaking engagements!

I'm excited to be speaking at two Newfoundland and Labrador Environmental Industry Association (NEIA) events in St. John's in June.

On June 12, as part of the NEIA Speaker Series, I will be discussing supply chain capacity within Newfoundland and Labrador to support an offshore wind energy industry. NEIA and I collaborated on this study and this will be the first public presentation of our findings. For more information and to register, please visit the NEIA event page.

On June 16, at NEIA's Environmental Manager's Roundtable, I will be leading private sector environmental leads and managers in a discussion on recent federal reviews of the Fisheries Act, Navigation Protection Act and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. I have my own views, but I am interested in hearing what other practitioners have to say about the recommendations. For more information and to register, please visit the NEIA event page


Express Yourself - Federal EA Review

On April 5, 2017, the Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, held an armchair discussion with Johanne Gélinas, Chair of the Expert Panel reviewing federal environmental assessment processes. I was there in the audience with hundreds of fellow Impact Assessment (IA) practitioners - many of us have since read the panel’s report, Building Common Ground, have discussed it extensively with our colleagues, and are working on our submissions. We "IA nerds" are an enthusiastic bunch who are eager to share our thoughts, and I encourage others to do the same.

Industry representatives, social advocates, conservation organizations, academic institutions, Aboriginal communities, individuals, municipal agencies - we are all unique yet equal participants in this conversation. 

I’ve summarized some of the panel’s recommendations below. I hope that one or several may catch your interest and encourage you to go online to review the report and submit your comments by May 5.

Select recommendations from the panel

  • Moving away from determination of significance of adverse environmental effects and instead assessing a project based on sustainability criteria (i.e., evaluate net benefits and review trade-offs between environmental, social, economic, health and cultural impacts, both positive and negative).
  • Creating a new federal authority, the Impact Assessment Commission (“the Commission”) to conduct IAs. The Commission would require the expertise and capacity to deliver on the following functions: Planning and Assessment; Science and Knowledge; Indigenous Relations; Public Participation; Proponent Liaison; Information Management; and Monitoring and Enforcement.
  • Including Indigenous Peoples in decision-making at all stages of IA, in accordance with their own laws and customs, and increasing the Commission's and communities' capacity to meaningfully engage.
  • Requiring that all information included in impact assessments (e.g., raw data from field studies) and information about post-construction monitoring and enforcement (e.g., effectiveness of mitigation measures) be publicly and permanently accessible through a central database.
  • Increasing use of regional and strategic environmental assessments to help focus project-specific assessments and to better address cumulative effects.
  • Establishing distinct phases of IA - Planning Phase, Study Phase, and Decision Phase. The planning phase would begin early in project development and conclude with a conduct of assessment agreement. All studies outlined in the assessment agreement would be completed during the study phase. During the decision phase, the Commission would seek Indigenous consent and issue a decision based on sustainability criteria. Multi-stakeholder, in-person engagement would occur throughout all phases of IA.

Common ground is built from meaningful dialogue - be a part of the conversation and provide your input on the panel's recommendations. Express yourself!

Changes to the Newfoundland and Labrador Environmental Regulatory Framework

Regulatory changes in Newfoundland and Labrador

It’s been an active few weeks in Newfoundland and Labrador as the provincial government strives to rectify the fiscal situation, fulfill climate change commitments, and promote economic growth. Three changes (two enacted, one to come) will affect the provincial environmental regulatory framework: reorganization of governmental departments, new emissions reporting requirements, and review of environmental assessment (EA) and permitting processes.

1. Realigned government departments

On February 22, 2017, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador announced a realigned government structure as part of the effort to restore fiscal balance [1]. Two new departments of importance to those overseeing environmental aspects of projects are:

  • Department of Municipal Affairs and Environment: the former Department of Environment and Climate Change has been dissolved, with Environment joining Municipal Affairs, and the Office of Climate Change being placed within the Executive Council.
  • Department of Fisheries and Land Resources: replaces the former Department of Fisheries, Forestry and Agrifoods, with the following additions from other departments:
    • Lands Branch (formerly under Department of Municipal Affairs)
    • Wildlife Division (formerly under Department of Environment and Climate Change)
    • Fish and Wildlife Enforcement Division (formerly under the Department of Justice and Public Safety)

The restructuring of these and other departments resulted in the elimination of 287 management positions, of which 90 positions were vacant [2]. The main concerns I’ve heard are knowing who to contact for various planning and permitting needs, and how these changes will affect the Environment minister’s decision timeline on applications (already often taking longer than the 45-day period indicated in the Environmental Assessment Regulations). As positions and responsibilities are re-shuffled, and with the announcement of a review of our provincial EA process (which I discuss further below), it may be some time before we have clear direction.  

2. New emissions reporting

The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador passed the Management of Greenhouse Gas Act in 2016. On March 7, 2017, the emission measurement and reporting requirements of the Act, as well as the attendant Management of Greenhouse Gas Reporting Regulations, came into effect. The Act focuses on emitters of at least 15,000 tonnes/year of CO2 (equivalent) from manufacturing and processing, mining and oil and gas extraction (excluding offshore oil and gas production), and electricity generation (excluding the Holyrood Generating Station) [3]. The Regulations include how to quantify CO2 (equivalent), required contents for emissions reports, and how submitted results will be verified [4].

Remaining aspects of the Act are yet to be enacted (no indication yet of when that will be), but will include limits for those emitting at least 25,000 tonnes of CO2/year, establishment of a Greenhouse Gas and Reduction Fund and credit system, and creation of a compliance system (including inspection, punishable offences and fines) [3].

3. Review of environmental assessment and permitting processes

The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador launched Phase 2 of their Way Forward strategy on March 27, 2017. Among the many initiatives aimed at overcoming the province’s fiscal, social and economic challenges, the document lists three actions of interest to those engaged in EA in the province. The government says the timeline for completion of these actions is “in 2017-2018” [5].

  • Review of the EA process – The government will review Part X (Environmental Assessment) of the Environmental Protection Act and the attendant Environmental Assessment Regulations. The review “will begin with a jurisdictional scan of relevant legislation, business processes and best practices in Canada” [5]. The last review of the provincial EA process was carried out in 2002.
  • Review of municipal and environmental permitting processes – The government will review several “key existing regulatory and legislative permitting and licensing processes.” The review process “will support more timely approvals for clients and stakeholders”[5].
  • Establish requirements for Women’s Employment Plans [5] – Under the current EA process, proponents are asked to describe “how employment equity will be addressed relative to age and gender” [6], though there are no specific requirements in the Act or Regulations. It appears that the government will issue more specific expectations and reporting requirements on gender equitable employment.

Federal regulatory review

Along with these changes at the provincial level, there are also potential changes arising from the federal review of environmental and regulatory processes:

  • Review of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act - the Expert Panel's report will be submitted to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change by March 31, 2017 [7].
  • Review of the Fisheries Act – the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans presented their findings to the House of Commons on February 24, 2017 [8].
  • Review of the Navigation Protection Act – the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities presented their findings to the House of Commons on March 23, 2017 [9].
  • Review of the National Energy Board’s (NEB) structure, role and mandate under the National Energy Board Act – the Expert Panel’s report will be submitted to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change by May 15, 2017 [10].

It can be challenging when there are new or potential changes to a single regulation, let alone to several regulations at provincial and federal levels! Look to your environmental staff and consultants to keep you appraised of regulatory changes and to help you understand how your project may be affected.

NL supply chain capacity study - offshore wind

Stapleton Environmental Consulting is pleased to partner with the Newfoundland and Labrador Environmental Industry Association (NEIA) to investigate the province's supply chain capacity to support offshore wind energy development. The study is currently underway and we look forward to sharing our findings.  

NEIA is a not-for-profit association of businesses that promotes the growth and development of the green economy in Newfoundland and Labrador.