THUNDER BAY – Politics – There has been significant media coverage over the last several months regarding the Thunder Bay Generating Station. I am pleased by this broad based expression of interest and support for the retention and conversion of this energy generator to meet the current and future energy needs of Thunder Bay and Northwestern Ontario.
Thunder Bay Generating Station
In the 2003 provincial election all three political parties and all three political leaders, Ernie Eves, Dalton McGuinty and Howard Hampton supported the closure and elimination of all coal fired energy generation in the province ofOntario. Two of the five producing coal plants in Ontario were in my riding of Thunder Bay-Atikokan. As a first time Liberal candidate in 2003, it was a policy position upon my election that I inherited.
What followed was a nine, going on ten year effort for the retention of these two generating facilities as part of the energy supply for Thunder Bay and Northwestern Ontario. In the Atikokan case, the argument was both policy and practical. To close this plant was to close the town. Ninety to one hundred good paying jobs and 40% of the total municipal tax base would disappear. It simply could not be allowed to happen. Additionally we needed to be sure to be positioned for the future long term energy needs of our region. In our 2006 budget, 4 million dollars was allocated to researching potential alternate fuel sources for the Atikokan plant, with 2 million of that being spent atLakehead University. Today the biomass conversion is under way and an almost 200 million dollar construction contract creating significant local employment has begun. As well, the tax base and jobs for Atikokan have been preserved and the environmental benefits have been achieved. Additionally as a result of this conversion, two new businesses will be created producing biomass pellets for the Atikokan plant and other markets, creating further significant direct and indirect forestry sector employment in both Thunder Bay and Atikokan.
Of two coal fired generating stations in my riding, the Thunder Bay station was positioned to be the first converted and the process of natural gas conversion was well under way several years ago. A series of Thunder Bay city council resolutions going back to 2005 requesting the plants remain open burning the coal and attempt to incorporate cleaner coal technologies were instrumental in delaying the project. It is important to remember that all three parties were and continue to this day to be opposed to the burning of coal in the province of Ontario. Subsequently, the Ontario Power Authority has determined that the energy needs of our region do not require this facility to operate and have given examples of how our energy needs for the region can be met, including the construction of the East West tie line hoped to be completed in several years.
The conversion of the Thunder Bay Generating Station has been and continues to be a priority for me. There are many reasons why I have believed since 2003 that both of these plants need to be retained for our current and future energy needs. I do not agree with the Ontario Power Authority assessment of the situation and strongly disagree with the financial cost they have attached to the conversion. It is significantly higher than the number that was being used back in 2005/2006. The work is ongoing and I continue to advocate with the relevant Ministers on this file. As well I am happy to have the support of this mayor and council for the continued operation of the Thunder Bay Generating Station.
Bill Mauro MPP
Thunder Bay – Atikokan