Posted on January 13, 2010 (updated: January 13, 2010)

Canadians take on American coal-fired power plants over smog and climate change concerns

Conservation and environmental organizations from across Eastern Canada today filed a Section 115 Petition with the U.S. EPA Administrator. This action seeks emission reductions of contaminants from the 250 U.S. Midwest coal-fired power plants that cause smog and acid rain in Canada. Emissions from these plants also have serious global consequences associated with climate change.

Windsor is a fitting location for Derek Coronado of the Citizens Environment Alliance of Southwestern Ontario, and Albert Koehl, a lawyer from Sierra Legal Defence Fund, to launch the Petition. Windsor is one of the areas hardest hit by transboundary air pollution, where the mortality rate from dirty air is twice as high as the next highest ranked city, Toronto. Ninety percent of some smog-causing pollutants in Windsor come from Detroit and other parts of the U.S. Midwest. In major cities like Toronto and Montreal up to half of the smog contribution is from US sources.

Sierra Legal filed the Petition on behalf of the coalition of groups (Friends of the Earth-Canada, Citizens Environment Alliance of Southwestern Ontario, Toronto Environmental Alliance, Centre for Environmentally Sustainable Development, STOP, Ecology Action Centre and Conservation Council of New Brunswick). The petitioners are all situated in the path of the U.S. Midwest contaminant plume.

The Section 115 Petition of the US Clean Air Act is the first step for litigation that can proceed if the Director of the US Environmental Protection Agency fails or refuses to take action to reduce emissions from the coal fired power plants.

“This petition is both a challenge to the EPA and an opportunity for it,” said Albert Koehl, the lawyer representing the groups. “We would rather sit down and work with the EPA to clean the air and protect our climate than face off against them in court. But my clients will not stand idly by as tens of thousands of Canadians and American lives are cut short by preventable emissions of poisons from coal-fired power plants.”

The Midwest power plants emit millions of tons of SO2 and NOx annually. Carried by prevailing winds into the populous Windsor to Quebec City corridor, they contribute to the smog that results in thousands of premature deaths each year and causes respiratory illnesses in children and other vulnerable groups. These emissions contribute to acid rain in Eastern Canada, particularly Atlantic Canada. Also emitted are millions of tons of CO2, which cause climate change impacts such as heat waves, drought, and violent storms.

“We cannot wait any longer for clean air,” said Derek Coronado of the Citizens Environment Alliance of Southwestern Ontario. “After the smog episodes of the last several weeks, who can blame us for demanding it? This isn’t just for our benefit because millions of our American friends and neighbours breathe this dirty air first before the wind brings it our way.”

“We are at the end of North America’s tailpipe,” said David Coon of New Brunswick’s Conservation Council.

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty was commended for closing the first of five Ontario coal fired power plants and for convening the upcoming Share the Air Summit between U.S. and Canadian government and industry representatives. The Coalition organizations remain anxious to see real and measurable progress in the form of cleaner air as the Summit’s outcome, and immediate attention to curbing emissions from both Canadian and US sources.

The petitioning groups are:

Citizens Environment Alliance of Southwestern Ontario [Windsor]
Toronto Environmental Alliance [Toronto]
Friends of the Earth Canada [nationally–based, Ottawa]
Ecology Action Centre [Halifax, Nova Scotia]
Centre for Environmentally Sustainable Development
STOP [Montreal, Quebec]
Conservation Council of New Brunswick

Join our newsletter

Get updates on the most pressing environmental issues delivered straight to your inbox.

Join our online community

Follow us on social media