Requesting answers to our energy questions

Simcoe Reformer: BY TOBY BARRETT - November 28, 2007

This past week Bruce Power/ Bruce Nuclear sponsored local public information sessions, with Dr. Patrick Moore discussing the role of nuclear energy. This once again underlines the need for answers to the energy questions that are echoing throughout our area.

It was June 2006 that Premier Dalton McGuinty announced a $40 billion nuclear program for Ontario and the promise of consultation. Last spring I wrote two letters to the premier requesting that government hold public hearings on the future of electricity generation in our area and provide a cost comparison between nuclear generation and coal-fired generation that includes carbon capture and clean-air technology. To date I am awaiting a response -- or action -- on either front.

Given what's at stake, in June of this year, I held an energy symposium in Jarvis -- a symposium that included stakeholders representing many perspectives on the generation of energy.

Those attending made it overwhelmingly clear they favour clean-air technology and carbon capture at OPG Nanticoke rather than a nuclear plant. People attending also wish to learn more about the options available.

There have been voices calling for a nuclear plant in our riding. During the Ontario election, the local Liberal candidate made it clear that she would be asking the province to conduct an environmental assessment to pave the way for a nuclear facility.

Those calling for an environmental assessment (EA) as an avenue for public input on the nuclear question should be mindful of some concerning pitfalls. While an EA sounds fair, one of the main EA tools for public input -- the environmental registry -- allows for responses from anyone across Canada. This has the potential to override the sentiments of locals -- folks living beside the proposed site.

It should also be noted that, according to Ontario Legislative Library research, in the cases where an EA for a nuclear reactor was completed, all but one resulted in a nuclear facility being installed. The evidence points to the very real potential that once an EA is enacted it may be already too late to put the brakes on for those with concerns or opposition.

With respect to nuclear at Nanticoke, a spokesperson from the Ontario Ministry of Energy recently stated they are "not considering sites that don't already host existing reactors." This statement is underlined by the fact that, according to this fall's Nanticoke Neighbours update, "Ontario Power Generation has been directed by the provincial government to initiate the federal approval process for new nuclear generation at an existing nuclear site. OPG has selected its Darlington Nuclear site in Clarington Ontario." There's no doubt that every time this government rattles it's sword to cut coal power at its source, it not only puts the province's energy future in jeopardy, it also threatens the 600 jobs and related economic input from Nanticoke. That's why it is incumbent on government to examine alternative energy options closely, while providing information to -- and listening to feedback from -- area residents.

As we continue to look for answers to the local energy questions, it is essential that decision-makers consider the local economy, environment and wishes of the residents.

I will continue to advocate for comprehensive public consultation to ensure the voices of people in our area are heard.

Toby Barrett is MPP for the riding of Haldimand-Norfolk

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