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TORONTO (CP) - A scheduled review of the environmental risks posed by an underwater cable that would transmit power from Canada's worst air polluter to the U.S. ignores serious potential health hazards, an environmental group says.

The 140-km cable under Lake Erie would link the Nanticoke coal-fired generating station with U.S. markets, allowing for an increase in power exports and hence an increase in air pollution, critics say. "The Americans will get the electricity, people in southern Ontario and Quebec will breathe the fumes," said Jack Gibbons of the Ontario Clean Air Alliance.

A just-released draft of what the National Energy Board's environmental assessment of the submarine cable will cover shows the board has no intention of looking at air quality.

Instead, the review will focus only on the direct impact of laying the cable under the lake.

Hydro One, the province's publicly owned electricity transmission utility, has acknowledged concerns over increased air pollution.

However, it has refused to request that the energy board broaden its impact assessment of the cable.

In a letter to the alliance this week, Hydro One president Tom Parkinson said a wider review would be unnecessary.

"Hydro One recognizes that emissions are a concern of the Ontario Clean Air Alliance," Parkinson wrote.

"However, I do not believe that the environmental assessment of the Lake Erie link itself warrants a wholesale review of generation effects and emissions across the province."

In light of the company's refusal, the alliance planned to call on Ontario Premier Ernie Eves on Friday to order Hydro One to ask the board to take air pollution into account in its review.

The board has the authority to do so under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and would surely agree if asked, said Gibbons.

A spokesman for Eves said the premier was unable to comment because he had not yet heard from the alliance on the issue.

The Ontario Medical Association has called smog a "public health crisis" in the province, and reported that 1,900 Ontarians a year die prematurely from breathing dirty air.

"Hydro One knows its actions are going to further degrade air quality in Ontario," said Gibbons.

"Yet it wants to go ahead without an examination of how many more people would be hurt if the Nanticoke submarine cable is constructed."

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