N.S. government sets out rules for assessing projects in emerging hydrogen sector
One company has already submitted a proposal for project on Strait of Canso
Nova Scotia's new requirements for green hydrogen businesses have a streamlined approval process, but the province's environment minister says that doesn't mean the system will have weaker checks and balances.
The provincial government announced regulations for the green hydrogen sector on Monday. They include subjecting large-scale projects that produce or store hydrogen and ammonia to a Class 1 environmental assessment.
Environment Minister Tim Halman said the decision to subject such projects to a Class 1 assessment, as opposed to a longer and more involved Class 2 assessment, followed recommendations from staff in his department.
"They took a lot of time to learn about the industry and it was determined that Class 1 is more than sufficient to ensure that we get compliance to our regulator framework," the minister said in an interview.
It's an emerging energy source as governments around the world move away from carbon-based fossil fuels in an attempt to slow the pace of rising sea levels and extreme weather from climate change. Halman said it is important for businesses in the province to have a clear understanding of the rules and what is required to get approvals
Earlier this month, EverWind Fuels became the first business to register a green hydrogen project for environmental assessment in Nova Scotia. It wants to build a production facility in Point Tupper. The government also recently announced plans to develop an offshore wind sector, a move that would also contribute to the development of a hydrogen industry on the east coast.
Other changes announced Monday include allowing a bundled operational approval for facilities that produce or store hydrogen and ammonia, rather than many smaller approvals.
Halman said that decision allows one broad application as opposed to a "piecemeal" approach.
"In no way, shape or form does that mean less due diligence," he said. "It is going to be the same high standards."
Brenna Walsh with the Halifax-based Ecology Action Centre said it appears the government is trying to fast track hydrogen projects.
A need for rigorous assessment
Walsh said she has concerns about bundling approvals and she would have preferred to see such projects subject to a Class 2 environmental assessment.
"We really hope that they will go through a full, rigorous assessment before being approved," she said.
While governments such as Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador are putting a big push on developing green hydrogen projects, Walsh noted the proposals focus on exporting energy. Nova Scotia still needs more green energy at home, she said.
"We have a lot left to go in terms of decarbonizing our electricity grid," she said.
"And so being able to put renewables online that would be used to decarbonize the grid directly and replace coal, I think, should be a higher priority."
New roles in Environment Department
Halman also announced Monday that his department will employ two business relationship managers, positions created last year, to help companies navigate the regulatory process.
"My goal as regulator," said Halman, "is to get companies to comply with our environmental regulations and the best way to get compliance is through understanding, so they understand how the rules are."
Halman said the managers serve as consistent contacts for companies.
"We believe economic development and environmental protection go hand in hand," said Halman.
"And clarifying regulations, making sure people understand regulations — that is only going to enhance our high environmental protection standards."