Mike Schreiner: This sets a dangerous precedent for the province of Ontario and every municipality within it because it makes a mockery of the Environmental Assessment process.
Stopping a power plant from being built on land that feeds 50 percent of Ontario residents has been a long battle that just launched an official petition.
What is hoped to be the final lap for the fight to halt a power plant from being built on valuable farmland, residents across York Region have mobilized to collect original signatures on an official provincial petition. On November 13, 2010, Avia Eek, a Holland Marsh farmer, posted this petition on her website so that any Ontario citizen can download and print copies. Many citizens across York Region have battled the provincial government for almost two years in an attempt to stop a gas fired power plant from being built on farmland that produces half of Ontario’s vegetables.
Provincial Laws Violated
In an October 29, 2010 interview with Suite101, Mike Schreiner, leader of Ontario’s Green Party was asked what specific legislation has been ignored by the province.
Schreiner replied: “Lawyers with expertise in municipal planning and environmental law have indicated, the York Energy Centre (YEC) has violated several important pieces of provincial legislations including The Planning Act, the Environmental Assessment Act, the Greenbelt Legislation and the Ontario Government’s procurement policies also established in legislation.”
Mike Schreiner also stated that this sets a dangerous precedent for the province of Ontario and every municipality within it because it makes a mockery of the Environmental Assessment process.
When interviewed by Suite101, Schreiner added, “YEC appears to have violated the government’s procurement process and policies.” The Ontario Ombudsman’s Office is now investigating this.
Power Plant Impacts on the Holland Marsh
The Holland Marsh is referred to as being Canada’s salad bowl. Family farms occupy 10,000 acres of extremely fertile land that is a floodplain. The area was once swamp and today the soil is great for agriculture, not for development. Houses in the area do not have basements and homes built in the early 1950’s are still shifting due to the unstable soil.
Unstable soil worries many residents and farmers in this area. Eileen Johnson, a Holland Landing resident spoke to Suite101. She feels, “Putting an 18km gas pipeline in this area, in which most of it is a designated greenbelt area is wrong. Everyone here knows that the land in the Marsh is not safe for development. If this goes through, it won’t be long before there’s a serious explosion.”
Avia Eek, Director of the Holland Marsh Growers’ Association, spoke to Suite101. She says that Pristine (now Fort Chicago) is currently doing hydrological work on the 33 acre site. “They have gone 30’ down and there still is no bottom; this clearly indicates this is not a safe location for a power plant. Eek also stated that several years ago Hydro One wanted the same site to build a transformer station and were rejected due to the unstable environment. “If a transformer station can’t be built there then that says it all.”
Information provided by a Facebook Group called Stop the Holland Marsh Peaker Plant says that according to an environmental study every 900 hours (or 37.5 days of operation) will result in emissions equal to:
- Carbon Dioxide = 270,069 automobiles
- Carbon Monoxide = 494 automobiles
- Nitrogen Oxide = 47,838 automobiles
- Particulate Matter = 21,598 automobiles
Avia Eek states that stores purchasing produce from the Holland Marsh farmers are very particular. “There is not a doubt that this pollution will ultimately mean the end of an almost $200 million a year agricultural industry – and our livelihoods.”
Julia Ciccaglione, Pristine’s vice-president of environmental policy, said in an interview with the Toronto Star (Holland Marsh power plant sparks fear), a review done by the company found no significant danger to soil, air, human or animal health.
Kathy Banville, in an interview with Suite101 comments, “Pristine doing their own review is no different than letting a fox guard a hen house.”
McGuinty GovernmentPristine Energy by-passed the Planning Act because, as Mike Schreiner stated, “ The McGuinty government exempted the YEC from the Planning Act.” He also mentions: “The Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority in more than one public letter expressed concern for Pristine’s disregard for the planning process and cited incomplete filings and tardiness.”
Kathy Banville believes the (at the time) Energy Minister, George Smitherman, may have a role in fast-tracking Pristine Energy’s plan for the Marsh. The Green Party of Ontario has asked the Ombudsman’s office to investigate this matter.
George Smitherman became Minister of Energy in June 2008 after his role as Health Minister came under fire as a result of the eHealth scandal which cost nearly $1 billion of taxpayers’ money.
York Energy Centre LPIn December 2008, the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) announced that York Energy Centre LP was chosen to build and operate a gas fired power generating station where 50% of Ontario’s vegetables are grown.
Pristine Power in Calgary was chosen to be the developer of this project as well as being a 50 percent owner of York Energy Centre. The other half is owned by an Alabama-based corporation, Harbert Power. Harbert Power is owned by a major American defense contractor, Raytheon.
Recently, Pristine Power was purchased by American-owned Fort Chicago Energy Partners L.P. for $314 million making this venture 100 percent American-owned.
A Holland Marsh farmer who has requested to be anonymous stated in an interview with Suite101 on November 14, 2010, “When Pristine first came to the area, officials offered money and other benefits. It makes you have to wonder who else may have been offered benefits by this proponent.”
Holland Marsh Petition
Many people are feeling rejuvenated that they are now on the final lap in their fight to halt this power plant. Residents across York Region have mobilized to collect original signatures on an official provincial petition. Avia Eek has posted this petition on her website so that any Ontario citizen can download and print copies. M.P.P. Julia Munro will be presenting these petitions to the Legislative Assembly before the provincial government breaks for Christmas.
This petition along with the continuing efforts of groups that include the Holland Marsh Growers’ Association, Global Environmental Action Group, Concerned Citizens of King, and many new faces in municipal offices including King Township’s newly-elected Mayor, Steven Pellegrini have strength and are hopeful this will be stopped.
Kathleen Banville says, “No one disputes having a power plant, this location is truly wrong.”
Avia Eek asserts, “Time is of the essence and we ask everyone who eats vegetables to help us preserve the Holland Marsh.”