Ontario could halt plans for quarry,
By Martin Mittelstaedt
Globe and Mail
Ontario Environment Minister Leona Dombrowsky is considering
ordering environmental assessments on two controversial
proposals -- a quarry on Lake Superior and a power plant
in Thunder Bay -- moves that could signal an aggressive
approach to environmental regulation by the Liberal government.
The province has been reluctant to order assessments
on private companies' development proposals, other than
for garbage dumps and hazardous-waste facilities. Staff
at the Ministry of Environment were unable to find cases
of a minister ordering an assessment of a private-sector
project, other than that of a small hydroelectric station
in the 1980s.
"Outside of the waste-management context, it has
been extremely rare to non-existent, so this is why these
would be significant precedents," Richard Lindgren,
a lawyer with the Canadian Environmental Law Association,
said of the assessments.
The Ministry of Environment filed notices late last week
on its Internet site that it is reviewing the two projects.
Proposals killed this week, such as a waste-disposal site
at the Adams Mine in Northern Ontario, have prompted extensive
A quarry is proposed for a site near Wawa, about 225
kilometres northwest of Sault Ste. Marie, along one of
the most scenic and undeveloped stretches of the Lake
Superior coastline. It would be the first quarry subjected
to an environmental assessment in Ontario, according to
The plan for the Thunder Bay power plant to use coal-like
residues from Alberta's oil sands as fuel to produce electricity
has prompted pollution concerns.
Under the ministry's procedures, the public has 30 days
to comment on whether the projects should be subjected
to assessments, after which Ms. Dombrowsky will issue
Ontario governments have been reluctant to expand environmental
assessments to the private sector because companies frequently
oppose them. Assessments can take years, are costly and
can doom projects found to be too damaging.
Ontario assessment law applies mainly to provincial-
and municipal-government projects, and to private-sector
waste-handling proposals. Environment ministers have the
option, but not the obligation, to use the law on private
Environment lawyer Dianne Saxe said the previous government
was reluctant to order assessments, but she believes Ms.
Dombrowsky is more open to them.
"There is no doubt that this minister has a very
different approach to environmental assessments than anything
we've seen in the last eight years," Ms. Saxe said.
The quarry is proposed by Superior Aggregates Ltd., a
company owned by Carlo Companies, a U.S. road-building
contractor. Under the proposal, rock would be blasted
from hills along the Lake Superior shore and shipped by
water to markets in the United States and Canada.
Ms. Dombrowsky's office has received hundreds of letters
from those who support the quarry and from those who want
it killed, according to the government.
The quarry would create about 20 seasonal jobs in the
economically depressed area, but it has raised concerns
that it would hurt ecotourism operators marketing this
area of Lake Superior as unspoiled wilderness.
A spokesman for Superior Aggregates said the company
is awaiting the minister's decision.
The Thunder Bay power plant is being proposed by SynFuel
Technologies Inc., which wants to build a 199-megawatt
power plant, enough to supply the peak power needs of
about 65,000 homes.
Company president Robert Van Patten said SynFuel was
surprised that it is being considered for an assessment.
It is seeking clarifications on environmental regulations
from the province.