gives Ontario pollution black eye
Ontario Power Generation plants cited in petition
slamming failure to curb smog-causing emissions
Local News - That New York State had to take Ontario to
task for the air pollution caused by its coal-fired power
plants marks a sad day for the entire province, says St.
Catharines MPP Jim Bradley.
This is a very embarrassing day for Ontario, he said.
There was a time when Ontario was the one to take the
initial action on air pollution and provoke reaction in
the U.S.A., when their record was worse than ours.
The Liberal environment critic was responding to a petition
filed with the Commission for Environmental Co-operation
by New York Attorney General Elliot Spitzer, slamming
Canada for doing little to curb smog-causing chemicals
spewing out of three southern Ontario coal-fired plants.
The same plants, particularly the massive generating
station at Nanticoke on Lake Erie, are among the major
culprits for the smog that leaves Niagara gasping for
air every summer.
At a news conference in Buffalo Thursday, Spitzer claimed
Ontario pollution is having a major impact on the air
quality and health of New York residents and accused the
government of failing to enforce its own environmental
Buffalo and the Buffalo region had the worst ozone problem
of any region in New York state. Buffalo was worse than
Manhattan, worse than the Bronx, Spitzer said, citing
Department of Environmental Conservation findings.
New York wants to use the North American Free Trade Agreement
to nudge Ontario into reducing noxious emissions from
its three largest coal-fired electricity generators, Spitzer
New York state, Connecticut, Rhode Island and 50 health
and environmental groups launched the petition asking
the international commission to launch a fact-finding
mission into Ontario Power Generationís Nanticoke, Lambton
and Lakeview generating stations.
While the commission is only able to publish recommendations
on the issue, Sierra Club Eastern Canada director Dan
McDermott said the challenge adds a major voice to those
already calling for change.
St. Catharines environmental consultant and author Hans
Tammemagi, who is working on a book about air pollution,
said all three plants are using antiquated filtering methods.
But even with the best technology, coal-fired plants
are still the worst type of polluter, he said.
Ontario Environment Ministry spokesman John Steele refused
to respond directly to the petition, but pointed out the
province is on target to reduce emissions by 53 per cent
by 2007, partly by installing new control systems at the
coal-fired stations, which are planned to be phased out
entirely by 2015.
Environment Minister Chris Stockwell said New York generates
17 per cent of its electricity from coal, while Ontario
derives 24 per cent of its power from coal, a percentage
that is falling.
Iím not arguing with them, Stockwell said in an interview.
But the reality is 200 coal-fired plants in the northeastern
United States are burning in other states. Iím not sure
weíre the real problem for New York. We are lowering our
He said New York should look at neighbouring states,
some of which burn the dirtiest coal in the world.
Both opposition parties have plans to stop using coal
by 2007, and Bradley a former Liberal environment minister
has long advocated for cleaner-burning natural gas plants
or alternative sources such as solar and wind power.
But with a growing population, Tammemagi said Ontario
is likely to be stuck with coal for the foreseeable future
to meet the demand for electricity.
He also questioned switching to natural gas, as diminishing
reserves will make it a very expensive fuel source.
With coal abundant, Tammemagi suggested governments would
be best to fund long-term research into finding a cleaner
way to burn coal.