Globe and Mail
Three large coal-fired power plants in Southern
Ontario produce 83 per cent of all the harmful air
pollutants from the province's electric-power sector,
according to documents obtained under the Freedom
of Information Act.
In the first full look at air emissions from the
province's 143 generating facilities, the coal plants
-- located near Toronto, Simcoe and Sarnia -- stand
out because they produced 24 million tonnes of contaminants
that cause global warming, acid rain, smog, and
heavy-metal poisoning in wildlife.
The bulk of the pollutants, tracked over an eight-month
period in 2000, are carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide
and nitrogen oxides, but they also include nerve
poisons, such as mercury, that are toxic to humans
and wildlife even in small concentrations.
The figures also show that the province's publicly
owned utility, Ontario Power Generation, is the
worst polluter, producing the lion's share of the
emissions, with nearly 91 per cent of the total.
The company that was the next-largest emitter,
TransAlta Cogen LP, produced only 1.4 per cent.
Ontario Power is such a big polluter partly because
it generates the bulk of the province's electricity,
and partly because of its use of coal to carry out
The Ontario Ministry of Environment has been quietly
collecting data since May, 2000, but has not yet
made them public.
The emission records were obtained using the right-to-know
law by Environmental Defence Canada, a non-profit
conservation group, which plans to issue the government's
full file of data of power-plant emissions today
on its Web site -- http://www.airwatch.ca.
Environmental Defence says the figures highlight
the need to curb use of coal for electricity generation
because coal -- the dirtiest of the fossil fuels
-- accounts for almost all the air pollution from
Coal stations typically produce from 25 per cent
to 30 per cent of Ontario's electricity needs, indicating
that they cause a disproportionate share of the
sector's air pollution.
The rest of Ontario's electricity production is
relatively clean because it is generated using nuclear
and hydroelectric power, two sources that do not
have large degrees of air-polluting emissions.
The group estimates that converting the province's
coal-fired electricity plants to cleaner-burning
natural gas could have a major environmental impact,
a single step that would meet half of the emission
reductions required by Ontario to achieve targets
set by the Kyoto Protocol.
"It's clearly time to phase out coal,"
said Burkhard Mausberg, executive director of the
The group hopes that electricity buyers will use
the information on emissions to buy power from low-emission
producers when Ontario's power market opens to competition
Pollutants from the coal-fired stations are a major
health threat. The stations produce fine-particle
aerosols that can penetrate deep into lung tissue,
causing asthma, heart attacks, and chronic bronchitis.
They also emit compounds that cause smog.
Ontario has Canada's most extensive requirements
for electricity producers to track their harmful
But Environmental Defence says the province's rules
are flawed because the government does not immediately
released the data it collects, forcing the use of
freedom-of-information legislation to obtain the
The data covers only the first eight months of
Among the top 10 of 143 generating facilities,
three coal plants near Toronto, Simcoe and Sarnia
release 83 per cent of the air pollutants that power
production contributes to smog, global warming,
acid rain and wildlife poisoning.
Per cent of total release by power plants
Ont. Power Generation (Nanticoke) 51.9%
Ont. Power Generation (Lambton) 25.73%
Ont. Power Generation (Lakeview) 5.47%
Ontario Power Generation (Thunder Bay) 3.9%
Ontario Power Generation (Atikokan) 2.06%
Ontario Power Generation (Lennox) 1.9%
AES Kingston Inc. 1.09%
Sithe Energies Inc. 1.08%
Down Chemical Canada Inc. 1.06%
Kirkland Lake Power Corp. 0.87%