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Push on to close Northwest coal-fired power plants

By Ward Holland - The Chronicle-Journal

June 18, 2002

The coal-fired generating plants in Thunder Bay and Atikokan should be closed within three years or converted to cleaner-burning fuels, a provincial committee says.

The Select Committee on Alternative Fuel Sources — made up of five Tory MPPs, three Liberals and one New Democrat — presented its final report to the Ontario legislature last week.

“There is a general feeling among the committee that moving from coal to gas, and then onto green energy like wind power, would be a logical way to deal with it,” MPP Doug Galt (PC—Northumberland), chairman of the committee, said yesterday.

The report claims to lay the groundwork to shift to more renewable and sustainable fuel and energy options for Ontario.

“The committee understands that Ontario has never had an overall strategy for the promotion and use of alternative fuels and energy,” it states.

“The report proposes that such a provincial strategy be developed to set a framework for action. Ontario can become a leader in the support for and use of alternative fuels and energy.”

The government should close Ontario Power Generation’s Atikokan and Thunder Bay coal-fired generating stations no later than July 1, 2005, the report continues.

It suggests they be replaced by wind farms, possibly on the plateau adjacent to Thunder Bay, and that the province close all remaining coal- or oil-fired generating stations by 2015.

Gary Shchepanik, an OPG employee, said the Power Workers Union, which has 10,000 members, was to deal with the issue today and is lobbying the government “to show the inappropriateness of a scheme” like closing the stations.

“As an employee of Thunder Bay Generating Station, it’s not the brightest idea,” Shchepanik said.

“Having only a short time frame, how you plan to replace 500 megawatts of power with wind power, when it hasn’t been done in North America, is not achievable.”

Shchepanik said a provincial election is expected and groups like these committees have to air their thoughts. However, he added, the government has to protect its industry. “That’ s our livelihood,” he said.

The Ontario Clean Air Alliance also released a report Monday that states the province can phase out use of coal.

“In as little as three years, Ontario won’t need to burn even a single lump of coal to produce all the electricity the province needs, according to a study . . . based on power market scenarios developed by Ontario’s Independent Electricity Market Operator,” it states.

The alliance says nuclear reactors are to return to service between 2002 and 2005. “The return to service of these reactors would completely eliminate the need for coal-fired power generation by 2005,” the report states.

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