Anti-nuke group sees red over theft of protest signs

Simcoe Reformer: DANIEL PEARCE - May 20, 2009

A citizens group opposed to a nuclear power plant for Nanticoke says its protest signs are being stolen from area lawns as part of a "concerted effort" to squelch its message.

Jim Elve, spokesperson for Grand Erie Energy Quest, estimated 20 to 25 of its signs have been taken across Norfolk and Haldimand counties.

But Elve said he suspects there have been many other thefts of the yellow and black "No Nukes" signs that have gone unreported.

"Four have disappeared from my lawn," said Elve, who lives in Waterford.

Elve said he has taken to securing his sign and the last time it was stolen, the job would have required two people working together wearing gloves.

He said he suspects the culprits are not Bruce Power, the company that is proposing to build a nuclear reactor on Lake Erie at Nanticoke, but local residents who are in favour of the plant.

"I don't know how it's being organized. It's certainly a concerted effort," he said.

"They're going just as fast as they're going up," said Port Ryerse resident Dick Goodlet, a member of energy quest who has put signs up high in trees to keep them away from thieves.

Energy quest claims "hundreds and hundreds" of people in the area support its position that the plant would be an environmental hazard and that there are alternatives to replacing Nanticoke's coal-fired plant, which is slated to close in 2014.

It has collected more than 1,000 signatures on an online petition, picketed Bruce Power's open houses in the area, and has asked pointed questions of company officials at public meetings.

Other residents support the idea of a nuke plant, seeing the jobs it will bring during construction and later during operations as a boon to the local economy.

"The community is becoming divided over the issue," Goodlet noted.

The Ontario government has said it will close all its coal-fired plants to help the province meet its Kyoto commitments on greenhouse gas emissions.

Goodlet said radioactive tritium that leaks from reactors will endanger Haldimand's dairy industry, Port Dover's fisheries, and the ecologically sensitive area around Long Point.

Alternatives to nuclear, he said, include biomass, clean coal, and pumping greenhouse gas emissions into abandoned underground gas wells instead of releasing them into the atmosphere via a smokestack.

The group, said Elve, is also concerned that both county governments appear to be backing the project.

Haldimand and Norfolk have given their OK for an environmental assessment at the proposed site -- a move Bruce Power is interpreting as carte-blanche approval for the reactor, energy quest contends.

"We feel our local government has let us down," said Elve. "They've been blinded by dollar signs and jobs, jobs, jobs."

Norfolk OPP Const. Mark Foster said theft of lawn signs is a punishable offence.

"Everybody has the right to display a sign so long as it's not offensive or illegal," said Foster.

Article ID# 1574994

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