As the province prepares to announce the results of its review of the Green Energy Act and a provincial budget that will likely see significant cuts to services, environmental groups are challenging the federal review of Premier McGuinty’s plan to build new nuclear reactors at Darlington due to its disregard of cost-effectiveness and environmental safety.
“Ontarians are still paying off the debt from building reactors in the 1980s every month on their electricity bill. Premier McGuinty needs to protect Ontarians from the high costs and environmental risks of new reactors,” said Shawn-Patrick Stensil, a nuclear analyst with Greenpeace Canada.
On March 9, lawyers with Ecojustice and the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA) filed arguments in federal court on behalf of Greenpeace, Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, Northwatch and CELA alleging that the federal authorities have failed to carry out a proper environmental assessment on building new reactors at Darlington. They argue that, contrary to the requirements of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, the federal panel responsible for the assessment failed to gather the evidence required to evaluate the project’s need, alternatives, and likely environmental effects.
“The current gaps in the environmental review fail to indicate what will be done to protect the water, air and land that Ontarians need to survive,” said Kaitlyn Mitchell, staff lawyer at Ecojustice. “Until Ontarians have those answers, our governments need to take precaution when considering additional nuclear reactors.”
The groups note that while the McGuinty government instructed Ontario Power Generation to plan for new reactors, it exempted the project from a provincial environmental review and is allowing it to proceed without a review of cost-effectiveness by the Ontario Energy Board. Commendably, however, the government is announcing reductions in the amount paid for renewable energy in Ontario following a public review.
“Nuclear costs continue to rise while green energy prices are dropping. Premier McGuinty needs to ensure his plan for new reactors doesn’t limit the growth of more affordable green energy and conservation at the expense of billions of taxpayer dollars,” said Theresa McClenaghan, executive director and counsel of CELA.
Under the government’s electricity policy, the growth of green energy must stop in 2018 to make space for new reactors at Darlington even if clean energy options are more cost effective. Environmental organizations and renewable energy developers have requested that this cap on renewable expansion be removed as part of the government’s review of the Green Energy Act.
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