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Habitat Watch # 288
Great Lakes United
January 11-January 17, 2004

Ontario power plant proposal moving forward without Environmental Assessment

There is a proposal from US-based Synfuel Technologies Inc. to obtain Ontario Ministry of Environment approval for the installation of a petroleum coke gasification power plant on the Mission River in Thunder Bay, Ontario. The project is not being subjected to an Environmental Assessment.

The $230 million mega-project has far-reaching environmental implications. Petroleum coke fuel plants are reportedly cleaner than coal, but the plant will utilize a "combustion process" that has potential for serious airborne contaminants and emissions. Other unanswered questions regarding the plant include how much water will be drawn to cool the plantís condensers and what local impacts the return water will have on the Lake Superior coastal ecosystem, and the areaís drinking-water supply.

Given the close proximity of a large urban population (the plant would be located within urban city limits, apparently less then a kilometre from residential homes within Thunder Bay and Fort William First Nation), and the 1990 promise that the Lake Superior basin was to be a zero discharge demonstration zone, a complete Environmental Assessment must be done. Please contact the Ministry of the Environment to request one. Include the following information for reference: EBR Registry Number: IA03E1538 and Ministry Reference Number: 4606-5SKL99.

Write to: Frank Wilson, NW Regional Director, Ministry of the Environment, Thunder Bay Regional Office, Suite 331, 435 James St. S., 3rd Floor, Thunder Bay ON P7E 6S7, fax: (807) 475-1754; and Brad Ross, Application Processor, Environmental Assessment and Approvals Branch, 2 St. Clair Avenue West, Floor 12A, Toronto, Ontario, M4V 1L5, fax (416) 314-8452; and The Honourable Leona Dombrowsky, Minister of the Environment, 12th Floor, 135 St. Clair Avenue West, Toronto, Ontario, M4V 1P5, email:

For more on the Lake Superior zero discharge demonstration zone, read the International Joint Commission report from the 10th biennial report at the Lake Superior Alliance webpage:

Destructive beach grooming legislation proposed

In July, federal Representative Bart Stupak (MI) and co-sponsor Rep. Duncan (TN) introduced a bill (H.R. 2687) which would force the Army Corps of Engineers to issue general permits allowing beach maintenance and grooming with less restrictions.

The bill is modeled after a Michigan law (14 PA 2003) that relaxed Department of Environmental Quality permit restrictions for certain shoreline maintenance activities. The Michigan law exempts leveling of sand, mechanical grooming, mowing vegetation, and path construction in exposed bottomlands from needing a permit. The state legislation was promoted by a group of Michigan shoreline property owners after lake levels lowered and the exposed bottomlands began to grow vegetation and develop into coastal wetlands.

By characterizing the issue as "beach maintenance and grooming," the bill disguises the fact that it would allow for the destruction of some of the most ecologically valuable, and often intermittent, areas in the basin, namely Great Lakes coastal wetlands. The proposed beach grooming legislation contradicts efforts made by the Great Lakes congressional delegations to promote a multi-billion dollar restoration effort for the Great Lakes region. Allowing for the destruction of coastal wetlands in the Great Lakes, while proposing billions of dollars for restoration at the same time, is illogical and counterproductive.

Please contact your congressional representative and let them know what you think of this bill. Please CC Rep. Stupak on any correspondence you have with your own representative at: Representative Bart Stupak, 2352 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515,fax: (202) 225 4744.

Great Lakes Unitedís Habitat and Biodiversity Task Force produces Habitat Watch with support from the George Gund Foundation and GLU coalition members. The task force is committed to protecting natural areas, wildlife, and strong conservation laws across the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River ecosystem. To join the coalition, subscribe, or send stories, contact GLU at: (716) 886-0142; fax: (716) 886-0303; or email: Past issues of Habitat Watch can be found at:

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