Ontario Government Criticizes U.S. Plans to Ease Air Pollution Rules

The Ontario government filed a complaint with the U.S. EPA, criticizing proposals they believe will lead to more pollution on the Canadian side of the border from coal-burning power plants in the U.S. Midwest.

TORONTO — The Ontario government filed a complaint with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Friday, criticizing proposals they believe will lead to more pollution on the Canadian side of the border from coal-burning power plants in Midwestern U.S. states.

The Ontario Ministry of Environment said the U.S. government intends to weaken emissions controls on coal-burning power plants, leading to more smog for Canada's most populous province, which is upwind from much of the Midwest.

"Air pollution from U.S. coal-fired generators is hurting Ontario's health, and the people of this province are counting on our neighbors to do better," said Ontario Environment Minister Laurel Broten.

The Ontario government submitted its concerns with the EPA on Friday, claiming proposals to its New Source Review under the Clean Air Act would allow some older power plants to skirt mandatory pollution controls when they make upgrades or modifications.

There are 1,300 coal-burning power plants in the United States. Environmentalists and critics say their emissions are contributing to acid rain and global warming.

John Millett, an EPA spokesman, said the agency would give the Ontario government's concerns "fair and open consideration."

"One thing I would point out is that, our view on the NSR changes is that they are environmentally neutral, that they may make a net positive because it will remove disincentives to modernizing power plants," Millett said.

He said air quality in the United States had "improved dramatically" in the last three decades and noted that the Clean Air Interstate Rule, another EPA regulation that went into effect last year, would reduce sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions at eastern United States power plants by 60 to 70 percent by 2015.

More than half of the air pollution in Ontario originates in the United States, in particular from the electricity industry. At some Ontario locations, including Sarnia and Windsor, more than 90 percent of the air pollution can at times come from U.S. sources.

Broten said Ontario had its worst year for smog last year, with a record 15 smog alerts covering 53 days in the province. Further, a 2005 provincial study showed that air pollution causes nearly C$10 billion (US$8.6 billion; euro7.25 billion) in total damages to Ontario, including C$6.6 billion (US$5.7 billion; euro4.8 billion) in health costs.

"We know that smog-causing pollution is taking an unacceptable toll on our health and economy," said Broten, calling on Americans to join her at the upcoming Shared Air Summit.

The summit will take place in Toronto this June and will bring together political leaders, scientists, health care professionals, environmentalists and industry representatives from across North America to discuss air quality issues and the impact they have on our health, environment and economies.

Dr. Greg Flynn, president of the Ontario Medical Association, told a news conference that smog does not respect international borders.

"We know that smog can contribute directly to cardiac and respiratory illnesses that can result in death," said Flynn. "Without a real commitment to cleaning up the air, people will continue to pay the ultimate price -- with their lives."

Source: Associated Press

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