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article imageCoalition sues Ontario over gas-fueled power plant near marsh

By Stephanie Dearing     Jul 24, 2010 in Environment
Newmarket - A coalition of environmentalists, politicians, farmers and residents of King Township, Ontario have filed a lawsuit against the Province of Ontario Thursday in a bid to stop a power plant that will be fueled by natural gas.
The Green Party of Ontario led the legal action against the province, claiming the province did not follow its own Green Belt policy when deciding to build the power generating plant near Holland Marsh. The Green Party press release states it had joined in the lawsuit because the organizations wants the government of Ontario "... to stop ignoring local democracy and concerns related to a gas generation plant being developed in King Township.
The Government was served with a statement of claim this morning. The plaintiffs are seeking a Judicial Review claiming that the Government has ignored its own legislation, its own promises and its own procurement rules which has served to deny citizens and the municipality the right to have concerns properly aired and addressed."
Green Party leader, Michael Schreiner succinctly states the case as "abuse of power and process." Aside from the Province railroading the project through, according to the litigants, the proposed plant will be only 400 meters away from an elementary school. In addition, "The proposed plant is located on an active flood plain, in the Ansnorveldt wetlands, in legislatively-protected designated countryside of the Greenbelt ... King Township has publicly indicated on numerous occasions this site does NOT conform to municipal planning requirements." The opponents also say the generating plant will not fulfill the electricity requirements of the area.
One of the litigants, Avia Eek, a Holland Marsh farmer, said "Our family grows healthy local food for all Ontarians, we follow strict rules, and I can’t understand why the government would break its own rules to push through this proposed plant located on a floodplain in the Greenbelt on protected countryside.”
Activist Debbie Schaefer, speaking for the Concerned Citizens of King Township, said “We are standing up for citizens across Ontario to ensure that the government follows its own laws and processes while engaging citizens and municipalities in smart planning.”
Named the York Energy Centre, the generating plant will produce a maximum of 400 megawatts of electricity once it is up and running. Construction was to begin in 2009, with electrical production starting in 2011, however, the project has been delayed. The planned facility is jointly owned by Alberta-based Pristine Energy and Alabama-based Harbert Power LLC. Natural gas will be piped in to the plant.
Ontario is seeking to exempt the energy development from the Planning Act, saying the exemption is needed to "... enable streamlined land use approvals for the York Energy Centre in northern York Region. This is required to allow the development of this new gas-fired generation facility to meet the need for new, clean, reliable power in an area of rapid growth."
Schreiner filed an objection to the proposed exemption, stating "... I am concerned with the dangerous precedent the proposed regulation establishes, namely that this government feels it can overturn its own laws, skirt its own quasi-judicial bodies, nullify the public policy objectives of the Planning Act itself and circumvent all local authority. In the Green Party's considered judgment, the proposed regulation continues the lack of transparency and abuse of due process that has pervaded the NYR procurement process to date.
This proposed ministerial action, especially while the project is before the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB), is unprecedented and simply yet another misguided step in what has been a fundamentally flawed process from the beginning."
As Pristine Energy explained in a press release, should the project be exempted, "... the provisions of the Planning Act, including the requirement to obtain Site Plan approval, would no longer apply to the project. The project would also be exempt from the Township of King’s recently enacted interim control bylaw for electricity projects."
President and CEO of Pristine, Jeffry M. Myers said “We are pleased with the proposed regulation and the commitment to support this grid-critical infrastructure project, and we look forward to the completion of the comment period.”
The 45 day period allowed for public comment closed on July 12. A decision on the request for an exemption has not yet been made.
Mike Schreiner also "... issued a formal complaint to Ontario Ombudsman, André Marin, under the Ombudsman Act, asking for a review of the procurement process and the bids that were submitted in that procurement process for the gas peaker plant, known as the North York Energy Centre, proposed for King Township.
I have asked the Ombudsman to ascertain whether the requirements of the RFP were met by the Ontario Power Authority and by the successful proponent, whether the OPA abided by the Government of Ontario’s procurement policy and honoured the public undertakings and commitments it made with respect to the procurement process."
Ontario is planning to construct gas-fired generating stations in Toronto, Halton Hills and Brampton in order to meet increased demand for electricity in the future. The Ontario Green Party is also opposing the proposed gas-generated energy plant proposed for Oakville, reported Inside Halton.
The Holland Marsh is home to Ontario's largest vegetable patch.
Gas-fired electricity generating plants are a part of Ontario's push towards clean and green energy, a bid to replace coal-powered generating plants. In 2001, Ontario had six coal-powered generating plants, five nuclear power plants and 69 hydroelectric stations.
More about Holland marsh, Power generation, Planning act ontario
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