A version of article was originally published by ThoroldToday on July 5. Tomorrow evening, Thorold City Council is holding a special meeting to decide whether or not to endorse the expansion.
Northland Power is looking to expand their gas plant in Thorold South, but local environmental advocates worry about the adverse climate effects that the project will create.
“If you’re increasing production and using more natural gas to make electricity, then you are going to increase your emissions,” says the chair of Biodiversity and Climate Action Niagara, Liz Benneian, in an interview with ThoroldToday. “There’s no way around that.”
The expansion is part of Premier Doug Ford’s plan to boost Ontario’s electricity system by building new gas plants.
“We know that we are in a climate emergency and we know that we need to be weening ourselves off of fossil fuels,” Benneian says. “The current Ford government plan is actually all about fossil fuels. It’s going in exactly the wrong direction of where we should be going.”
While the new plant in Thorold South will have 200 MW of capacity — enough power to provide electricity to 100,000 homes — Northland Power expects the plant to act as a back-up resource to support and stabilize the regional energy grid.
They also claim that emissions from the new plant will be 40% lower than the government standards.
But an increase in emissions is inevitable when you expand operations, says Benneian.
She stresses that the federal government has implemented a carbon tax, and that Canada is expected to reduce its overall greenhouse gas emissions, so the eventual closure of the proposed gas plants are a real possibility.
“The contract that the Ford government is intending to sign with these companies guarantees that they continue to pay for the generation even if the plants get shut down,” Benneian says. “If you’re a taxpayer you should care about these lousy contracts that are going to put us on the hook for energy that may not end up being made.”
Expanding gas plant operations is not the only way to meet increasing electricity demands, according to Benneian.
“There are better ways to deal with energy generation,” she says. “Solar and wind are now the cheapest way to create energy. We could have been ahead of the curve of creating new energy but [Ford] foolishly cancelled those contracts."
On Tuesday, September 19, Northland Power is set to appear before Thorold City Council to ask for a municipal endorsement of the plant.
“If citizens speak up and say that they don’t want it, hopefully their elected representatives will listen to them,” says Benneian.
She emphasizes the issue is much larger than Thorold.
“Everyone keeps making the same mistakes when we know better and we should be doing better,” Benneian says. “We have a very limited time to take action that is going to make any difference on what could be a catastrophic outcome. We can’t keep making these stupid decisions.”