The fight against the peaker plant in Ansnorveldt goes on
This letter from King Township councillor Avia Eek appeared in the King Sentinel on March 9, 1011, in response to the article in the March 4 Toronto Star by John Wilkes regarding Oakville winning nearly $500,000 in legal costs, incurred fighting a power plant in their community.
First of all, I’d like to congratulate [Oakville] Mayor Rob Burton, his staff, lawyers and the numerous residents. They fought a tough fight to stand up for their residents and environmental health. They made their provincial representatives listen to them, and make them realize that this facility was not in the best interests of the residents. These are the results that can be achieved when an entire community works together for the greater good.
Now, travel northeast to the Township of King, where the opposition continues with respect to a 393 MW (licensed for 435 MW) peaker power plant in the midst of a thriving community which mirrors, albeit on a smaller scale, the fight that the Oakville people fought and won. The difference is one provincial representative, whose riding takes in the part of King Township where the 650-psi high pressure designated gas pipeline is slated to be installed mere metres from people’s homes and an elementary school, favours this power plant. Personally, I think she should be commended for being brave enough to take personal accountability and responsibility — on behalf of the McGuinty government she represents —for the peaker plant being located in King. That courage will doubtless be tested during this fall’s election campaign. Her personal support for the peaker probably also explains why an identical project in Oakville was aborted by the McGuinty government, but this one is going ahead.
Our residents have been told time and time again how “necessary” this plant is, so we will not have to suffer through brown outs and black outs. This information is not 100 per cent accurate though, since, as we are aware, due to the current economy, there is a surplus of power and no risk of blackouts as once threatened. Due to conservation efforts, energy use has actually decreased. In fact, we are paying our neighbours to the south to take our excess electricity.
With this is mind, the following are some of the many valid opposition points which are not raised by those who “favour” this power plant. The location was rejected by the government during the Request For Qualification (RFQ) process, but contrary to the government’s own specifications, was somehow accepted through the Request For Proposals (RFP) process. The fact is, the site should never have been considered in the RFP process.
Our residents are told by provincial representatives that there will be no negative impacts to the health of the people living in and around the community, or to the environment. I find it very interesting that no reference is ever made by these provincial representatives to the following:
• The plant being located on a very active floodplain (a 65,000-acre watershed drains into the area where this site is located) that is linked to the provincially-significant designated Ansnorveldt Wetlands complex that extends to the Oak Ridges Moraine;
• this location is also part of a legislated Natural Heritage Area, Protected Countryside, and clearly goes against the Provincial Policy Statement;
• a procurement process that was irretrievably flawed;
• the municipality’s clear and strong opposition to the location;
• how the McGuinty government went through contortions to circumvent its own legislation, regulations, policies and independent regulatory authorities to push through the decision, ignore environmental concerns about the construction and location of the gas pipeline to serve the plant;
• how an OMB decision to determine whether or not this site conformed to the Greenbelt Plan/Act was pre-empted to implement Ontario Regulation 305/10, which essentially exempts this entire project from the Planning Act (effectively removing any power the municipality would have had to approve or disapprove this project);
• the same Ontario Regulation also exempted this project from the Interim Control Bylaw the Township implemented;
• how the McGuinty government ignored its promise that it would engage and come up with solutions acceptable to local residents and the municipality, never forcing this type of facility on an unwilling community.
The peaker plant is not a solution to the Ontario grid nor a local power solution to York Region — we still require transmission, which is currently the problem being faced by hundreds of residents or farmers who have installed solar panels on their properties or farms. They cannot be connected due to capacity issues.
Another thing that is never mentioned is the fact that under provincial rules, to protect residents’ health and safety, if the peaker plant were a wind turbine, it could not legally be located where it is due to the Ontario Wetlands Evaluation System criteria that renewable energy projects must adhere to, but not gas generation projects. Where is the logic in that decision? The new Southern Manual, issued by the Ministry of Natural Resources, supersedes the previous wetlands evaluation system and now incorporates not just the physical wetland location, but the designated wetland’s ecosystem reach.
We hear comments about the Environment Commissioner of Ontario's endorsement of the plan to move away from dirty coal. No mention is ever made that the same Commissioner criticized the process to select the location of the King peaker plant as "flawed from the getgo.” He commented that if this facility didn’t warrant a full-scale environment assessment versus an environmental screening, no project ever would.
Provincial representatives extol the stewardship of the Ministry of Environment, but neglect to mention that the Minister rejected or ignored residents’ requests for a sitespecific environmental assessment of the location for the King peaker plant.
Claims are made that the project will produce as many as “200 jobs during construction and several more once it begins operation.” But who is filling those construction jobs? If one visits the site, you’ll find the workers’ vehicles have mostly out of province licence plates. That was another shocking example of why the location is illsuited for a gas plant. Furthermore, the long-term employment at the plant is likely to be in the single digits (seven), certainly not “several more” than 200.
And finally, what is often neglected to be mentioned is that there were half a dozen alternate locations for the plant, approved through the RFQ process, any of which had substantially fewer environmental and health and safety impacts. One location even had municipal buy-in. Why weren't any of those locations chosen, rather than imposing an unwanted and environmentally threatening plant on the residents of King?
So, while I am thrilled with the win for Oakville, and again congratulate them, our fight continues. Who knows, maybe this could become a provincial election issue?
Councillor Ward 6
Township of King