One of North America's largest natural gas power plants proposed to go within 320 metres of a school
TORONTO, Dec. 10 /CNW/ - As world leaders and environmental experts meet at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen this week, Oakville group Citizens for Clean Air (C4CA) is urging fellow Ontarians and government policy makers to think locally, and reconsider the proposed placement of a private natural gas power plant to be built by TransCanada Energy. The targeted location is startlingly close to schools and homes.
The 900-megawatt natural gas power plant - one of the largest of its kind in North America - is proposed to go up on a site at the edge of Oakville's Ford Assembly Plant, an area that is only 320 metres from the nearby Chisholm school and about 400 metres from homes. In fact, there are over 16 schools and 11,000 homes in a three-kilometer radius of the proposed location, situated near the QEW and Royal Windsor Drive.
At the heart of the problem, according to C4CA, is the specific location of the plant that came to be by a flawed process. C4CA believes that the RFP process of the Ontario Power Authority closed the door to considering better alternatives, gave insufficient consideration to socio-economic impacts, and did not allow for reasonable timelines and meaningful community input.
The position of C4CA was validated by a December 4th ruling of the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) upholding an interim control bylaw issued by the Town of Oakville to allow more time to assess the impact of this proposed power plant. TransCanada and Ford of Canada unsuccessfully tried to have the bylaw struck down.
"It's encouraging to see good common sense brought to the situation," said Susan Hyatt, spokesperson for C4CA. "The OMB hearing was the first time an independent third party, acting separately from the Ontario Government or TransCanada, was able to look at this proposed location and power plant, and look what happens - they agreed that there are significant issues that need more time for review."
Among the checkered processes highlighted by C4CA is the questionable mandate from the Ontario Power Authority to build at the Ford plant; followed by an owner/operator self-assessment process that allows such a massive power plant to go ahead based only on an operator's own environmental review. This is in contrast to an individual environmental assessment, which would involve proper direction and decision-making by the Ministry of the Environment.
Added Hyatt: "Simply put, having a power plant like this squeezed so close to a heavily populated community is not only very unusual and risky, it makes no logical sense. Leaving aside the many emissions issues, from a safety perspective look no further than to last year's explosion at Sunrise Propane to know that industrial plants situated next to established residential neighbourhoods do not mix. Current regulations would prevent even a single wind turbine from being constructed at this proposed location, but the same government is proposing to allow a huge 900-megawatt power plant at the site."
Added Doug MacKenzie, C4CA President: "Ontario's coal phase-out program is Canada's largest climate change initiative. If the Ontario government supports this site, in the coming years it can be expected that natural gas power plants may well go up in communities right next to homes and schools across the province."
The OMB ruling this week is encouraging in a number of respects. In the view of C4CA, it clearly confirms the role that municipalities need to play in protecting the public interest and takes note of the questionable timelines and process that have been followed by the proponents of this project. The process is flawed; Ontarians need to work together to ensure there is a logical, proper evaluation of where these plants are going. While this plant may appear to be Oakville's problem, the precedent being set could lead to problems for everyone.
Air quality studies conducted in 2006 by the Ministry of the Environment indicate that the airshed in the Oakville Clarkson area is one of the most polluted airsheds in the province, and the Public Health Agency of Canada's Chronic Disease Surveillance Division reveals that, among children 12-19 years of age, those living in Halton have the highest asthma prevalence in the province.
The proposed 900-megawatt fossil fuel-burning facility would add significant quantities of airborne pollutants such as particulate matter 2.5 (PM 2.5), a known toxic substance especially harmful to children's lungs, into the air. PM 2.5 poses the greatest health risk due to the microscopic size of the pollutant matter. The particulate matter is so small it is not able to be trapped by nose hair or mucous - the body's first line of defense - and travels directly to the lungs' alveoli, and enters the bloodstream.
TransCanada, the private sector builder and operator, has been given a 20-year fixed-rate energy supply contract that guarantees the company significant annual revenues, even if the plant does not operate. Ontario taxpayers will pick up that tab; similarly to Quebec taxpayers for a similar TransCanada facility sitting idle in Quebec.
FACT VS. FICTION
FACT: This proposed plant would provide power to Ontario, NOT just power to Oakville.
FACT: There are no known 'safe' levels of particulate matter.
FACT: The Portlands Energy Centre off the south shore of Toronto has much better separation from homes, is far smaller, and is at a site historically used for substantial power generation. The proposed Oakville location is a much more aggressive and risky intrusion into an established and heavily populated neighbourhood.
About Citizens for Clean Air
Citizens for Clean Air ("C4CA"), a non-profit organization, is a coalition of volunteer citizens from Oakville and Mississauga who are very concerned with the proposal to construct a large gas-fired power plant extraordinarily close to many homes and schools, beside critical railway lines, and in an already over-polluted area with high levels of respiratory health problems. C4CA believes that we are all being rushed down a path that defies common sense, and that this power plant should not be built at the proposed site owned by Ford of Canada.
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SOURCE CITIZENS FOR CLEAN AIR (C4CA)
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