Environmental Assessment of Lambton and Nanticoke Coal Plants

Submission to the Environment and Transportation Committee 2001

TO: CHAIR AND MEMBERS
ENVIRONMENT AND TRANSPORTATION COMMITTEE
FROM: COUNCILLOR E. C. CORRIGAN
SUBJECT:   ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT OF LAMBTON AND NANTICOKE COAL PLANTS

Recommendation

That, London City Council pass a resolution requesting the Federal and Provincial Ontario Minister's of the Environment to subject the Ontario Power Generation to a full public environmental assessment to further the need to install catalytic reduction units on the Lambton and Nanticoke coal-fired power plants. It being noted that Mayor Lorraine Bergstrand of Haldimand County, Councillor Sam Merulla of Hamilton, the Clean Air Alliance and the Attorney Generals of New York State and Connecticut have already requested the Ontario Power Generation's proposal be subject to federal and/or environmental assessments. The following eleven Ontario municipalities have also called for federal and provincial environmental assessments of Ontario's power plants; Brantford, Cambridge, Guelph, Kitchener, Niagara Falls, Norfolk County, Stratford, St. Thomas, Waterloo, Windsor and Woodstock.

Background

When coal is used to produce electricity, there are large quantities of sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and carbon dioxide that are released. The Ministry of the Environment reports that an estimated 50% of the Provinces' ground-level ozone is generated as nitrogen oxides in the United States, much of it from coal-fired generating stations in the Ohio Valley and surrounding states. In 1995, coal-fired generating stations in Ontario were responsible for 22% of the Province's emission of sulphur dioxide, 12% of the nitrogen oxides, 18% of the carbon dioxide, and 10% of the mercury. These emissions are linked as important contributors to smog, acid rain, global climate change, and the accumulation of persistent toxins in the environment and the food chain.

In December 2000, the Governments of Canada and the United States signed the Ozone Annex to the 1991 Canada- United States Air Quality Agreement. The Ozone Annex requires fossil fuel power plants in southern Ontario to reduce their smog causing nitrogen oxides emissions by approximately fifty per cent by the year 2007.

In order to comply with the Ozone Annex, the Ontario Power Generation has put a proposal forward to install selective catalytic reduction units (SCR) on four of its 16 coal-fired boiler units in southern Ontario, including two units at Nanticoke and two at its Lambton plant in Sarnia. Lobby groups assert that the SCR units are largely ineffective in dealing with the Ontario Power Generation's pollution problems and will not reduce the emissions of any pollutants.

According to the Ontario Clean Air Alliance, the SCR's inject ammonia into the exhaust stream of coal plants. The ammonia molecules combine with the nitrogen oxides emissions to form water and atmospheric nitrogen ( a harmless gas). But in order to reduce nitrogen oxides emissions to levels to meet Ozone Annex standards, an excess amount of ammonia must be injected. This extra unused ammonia called "slip", enters the atmosphere and creates other hazardous pollutants. Therefore, in addition to hazards to workers, the use of ammonia in SCR's actually creates pollution through the formation of fine particulate matter and nitrous oxide.

The healthiest route to take is a conversion to natural gas of all coal fired power generating plants in the province. This will require the environmental assessment of the Ontario Power Generation proposals already put forth. In conclusion I would like to mention the March 26, 2001 announcement made by Environment Minister Witmer's move to tighten emissions on the province's six coal-fired power - generation stations, including a ban on burning coal at Lakeview near Toronto after 2005.

As reported in a March 26, 2001 Globe and Mail article; "Ms. Witmer and other senior government officials say they are determined that Ontario will do as much as it can to improve its own environment. Actions such as those to be announced today give the province added leverage in the fight to have U.S. states clean up their own acts."

London City Council should support this recommendation for the Federal and Provincial Environment Ministers to conduct a full environmental assessment for Ontario Power Generations upgrades to the Lambton and other coal powered facilities.

Prepared By:

E.C Corrigan
Councillor, Ward 7