Oakville residents still angry over gas plants
Posted in the Georgetown Forum
#1 Jul 14, 2013
proposed Oakville and Mississauga gas generating plants may be gone. But dozens of residents turned out Tuesday night in Oakville to tell Ontario bureaucrats theyre far from forgotten.
And they peppered the provincial energy planners with recommendations on how to do a better job next time they have to decide where to locate a big power plant.
Fixing this process requires fundamental change, Oakville resident Jim Goodfellow told officials of the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) and the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO).
The previous plan which would have put a 900-megawatt gas-fired plant beside a rail line, a few hundred metres from homes and schools looked like a real estate, engineering and finance exercise conducted in a back room, said Goodfellow.
The province ultimately cancelled plans for gas plants in both Oakville and Mississauga, at a cost of $585 million although the provincial auditor continues to probe the issue.
The Liberal government asked the OPA and IESO to make recommendations on how to do a better job of picking sites for big power facilities.
Theyve been touring the province holding public though not widely publicized meetings to gather opinions.
Opinions werent in short supply in Oakville Tuesday, as residents who had spent years battling the gas plants turned out in force at the towns convention centre.
Speakers complained that the current process concentrates on finding a power developer first, and talking to communities later.
Others noted that wind turbines cant be built within 550 metres of a dwelling. But theres no such setback for gas-fired plants.
Greg Rohn of the Coalition of Homeowners for Intelligent Power lives in Etobicoke, close to the proposed Mississauga plant.
Nearby residents were ignored in the early stages of the proposal, he said.
The engagement of the community happens after the proponent has been chosen, and after the site has been chosen and thats too late.
Goodfellow, a director of the Oakville group Citizens for Clean Air, agreed.
Weve got to figure out how to engage communities as partners, said Goodfellow.
Thats not how it worked when the Oakville station was first proposed, he said:
We kept hearing that the power companies were partners. We were the adversaries.
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At one public meeting, residents were greeted by uniformed security guards,
recalled Nancy Robertson of Citizens for Clean Air.
Turning to Colin Andersen, chief executive of the OPA, she said:Thank you, Colin, for not hiring security guards.
OPA officials said Oakville and Mississauga had been identified because of growing demand for power, which was straining standards for power availability and reliability.
Andersen agreed that getting citizen feedback early in the process is needed, but said its easier said than done.
It can be more challenging than you think to get people out, when an energy plan is in its early stages, he said.
And its difficult to engage politicians in the early stages of planning, he said, since they naturally concentrate on their current electoral term.
Its not always easy getting politicians interested in something thats in the next electoral cycle or in three electoral cycles, he said.
The residents came up with a string of recommendations about future plant locations, including minimum buffer zones, avoiding sites next door to rail lines, and considering existing air pollution levels in a location before adding a new plant.
They also asked for a moratorium on developments until a better procurement process for new plants is worked out, with public consultation, and approved by the Ontario Energy Board.
The IESO and OPA have until the end of the month to gather input from across the province and make t
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