Ontario Challenges U.S. To Protect Air Quality

Archived Release

Ontario Challenges U.S. To Protect Air Quality

Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change

Reducing Transboundary Air Pollution Will Benefit All Ontarians TORONTO, Feb. 17 - Environment Minister Laurel Broten today filed comments with the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) detailing the Ontario government's concerns with the U.S. government agency's plans to allow higher emissions from coal-burning power plants. "Air pollution from U.S. coal-fired generators is hurting Ontario's health, and the people of this province are counting on our neighbours to do better," Broten said. "I am calling on my colleagues on both sides of the border to join Ontario in cleaning up the air we share." Changes to the EPA's New Source Review program would allow coal-burning power plants to operate for longer hours and pollute more per year. This rule change would likely increase the amount of air pollution coming from the U.S. and lead to increased smog problems in Ontario because it will ease emission controls for a significant number of coal-fired power plants in Midwestern states. "Smog does not respect international borders, neither do the ill effects," said Dr. Greg Flynn, President of the Ontario Medical Association. "We know that smog can contribute directly to cardiac and respiratory illnesses that can result in death and without a real commitment to cleaning up the air, people will continue to pay the ultimate price - with their lives." The government of Ontario has begun to do its part by setting a target of generating five per cent of our electricity from renewable sources by 2007 and committing to close down all of the province's coal-powered generators by 2009. More than half of the air pollution in Ontario originates in the United States, in particular from the electricity production sector. At some Ontario locations, including Sarnia and Windsor, more than 90 per cent of the air pollution can come from U.S. sources. Transboundary air pollution has a significant and adverse impact on Ontario's economy and its citizens' health. Last year, Ontario had its worst year on record for smog advisories. There were a record 15 smog alerts covering 53 days in the province. And a 2005 provincial study showed that air pollution causes nearly $10 billion in total damages to Ontario, including $6.6 billion in health costs. "We know that smog-causing pollution is taking an unacceptable toll on our health and economy," said Broten. "I am here today to support our American friends who are fighting to improve the quality of air we all breathe, and to ask leaders on both sides of the border to join me at this year's Shared Air Summit." Ontario currently has ongoing working relationships with the states of New York, Pennsylvania, and Vermont, among others, on transboundary air issues. Shared Air Summit 2006 will take place in Toronto this June and will bring together political leaders, leading 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. A copy of the government's comments to the EPA, the 2005 Transboundary Air Pollution in Ontario report and an executive summary of the EPA comments can be found at: http://www.ene.gov.on.ca/envision/air/transboundary/index.htm. Disponible en français www.ene.gov.on.ca Backgrounder ------------------------------------------------------------------------- ONTARIO'S ACTIONS TO ALLEVIATE DOMESTIC SMOG-CAUSING AIR POLLUTION Ontario has taken dramatic action to reduce the air pollution emissions that originate within its own boundaries. - The provincial government has committed to the goal of closing all of Ontario's coal-fired electricity generators by 2009 and replacing them with cleaner, greener energy sources. - The province has recently entered into agreements to purchase power from 19 new renewable energy projects, including three waterpower projects, three landfill gas and biogas projects and 13 wind farms. To date, the province has contracted for a total of 1,370 megawatts of clean, renewable energy - enough to power 350,000 homes. - In 2005, the government introduced new and updated air standards for a total of 40 pollutants, to protect Ontario communities from the impacts of air pollution. This was the largest update in standards in over 25 years. - The McGuinty government also implemented the Industry Emission Reduction Plan, which establishes new emissions caps for industrial pollution sources in Ontario starting in 2006 and becoming even stricter in 2007, 2010 and 2015. - Between 1999 and 2003, the Drive Clean program helped reduce smog- causing vehicle emissions in Southern Ontario by a total of 81 kilotonnes (89,500 U.S. tons). - Ontario is providing a tax exemption of 14.7 and 14.3 cents per litre for ethanol and biodiesel, respectively. Beginning in January 2007, all gasoline sold in Ontario must contain an average of at least five per cent ethanol. - Over a five year period beginning in 2004, the province will invest a dedicated portion of the provincial gas tax - amounting to more than $1 billion - in public transit. And the government's five-year infrastructure investment plan, ReNew Ontario, commits the province to more than $3.1 billion over five years in direct provincial transit funding. These measures have helped the province reduce its annual emissions of smog-causing pollutants by almost one million tonnes (1.1 million U.S. tons) since 1990, even as its population and economy grew significantly during that period. Disponible en français www.ene.gov.on.ca Backgrounder ------------------------------------------------------------------------- SUPPORT FOR ONTARIO FILING COMMENTS WITH THE UNITED STATES ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY "Smog does not respect international borders, neither do the ill effects. We know that smog can contribute directly to cardiac and respiratory illnesses that can result in death and without a real commitment to cleaning up the air, people will continue to pay the ultimate price - with their lives." Dr. Greg Flynn, President Ontario Medical Association Toronto, Ontario ------------------------------------------------------------------------- "Emissions from U.S. sources are responsible for between 50 and 90 per cent of the air pollution that blankets Toronto on smog days and coal-fired power plants in the mid-western United States are the worst offenders. We support Minister Broten's position and urge the EPA to withdraw its changes and protect the health of all residents in the affected areas." His Worship David Miller, Mayor City of Toronto, Ontario ------------------------------------------------------------------------- "During the 1980's, Ontario's role in the acid rain debate was vital. Ontario's intervention today is no less significant. Hopefully the Bush administration will heed Minister Broten's concerns and put clean air ahead of politics." John M. Stanton, Vice President National Environmental Trust Washington, D.C. ------------------------------------------------------------------------- "We fully support Minister Broten's submission to the U.S. EPA and join her in calling on the US EPA Administrator not to proceed with the new proposed rules under its New Source Review Program. Transboundary air pollution not only affects the health of the people in the Great Lakes basin, it also affects the water quality of the Great Lakes. Ontario's submission makes a compelling case that the proposed new rules would be a step backwards in controlling dangerous emissions from coal fired power plants. It also reinforces the wisdom of Ontario's choice to phase out coal." Paul Muldoon, Executive Director Canadian Environmental Law Association Toronto, Ontario ------------------------------------------------------------------------- "World Wildlife Fund is urging the U.S. government to start reducing greenhouse gases, and the power sector is the single largest source. WWF welcomes this neighborly pressure which is especially credible given Ontario's commitment to phasing out its coal plants and delivering clean energy solutions at home. Since 2005 was a record year for global warming, with devastating impacts on nature and people around the world, no opportunities for reducing fossil-fuel pollution should be missed." Hans Verolme, Director, Climate Change Program World Wildlife Fund Washington, D.C. ------------------------------------------------------------------------- "Toronto Public Health supports the Government of Ontario's submission urging the EPA to abandon the proposed weakening of the NSR rule and begin to vigorously enforce the NSR program under the Clean Air Act." David McKeown MDCM, MHSc, FRCPC Medical Officer of Health Toronto Public Health Unit Toronto, Ontario ------------------------------------------------------------------------- "We welcome Minister Broten's and the Province of Ontario's objections to the latest Bush administration attack on clean air protections covering coal- fired power plant pollution. Ontario has lodged a powerful indictment of dirty air policies in the United States that threaten the health of Canadians and Americans alike." John Walke, Director, Clean Air Program Natural Resources Defense Council Washington, D.C. ------------------------------------------------------------------------- "We support and appreciate any steps the higher levels of government take to improve our air quality and look forward to watching this action unfold. We also look forward to working with the Ministry of Environment on further actions to improve the environment of Windsor and Essex County." Ron Elliott, Coordinator Windsor Essex County Environment Committee Windsor, Ontario ------------------------------------------------------------------------- "The link between transboundary air pollution and health effects is clearer than ever before. Any reductions in transboundary emissions will contribute to the health and well-being of Ontarians and I fully endorse the Ontario government's initiative." Dr. Brian E. McCarry, Departmental Chair McMaster University Department of Chemistry Stephen A. Jarislowsky Chair in Environment and Health Chair, Clean Air Hamilton Hamilton, Ontario ------------------------------------------------------------------------- "Pollution Probe completely supports the Government of Ontario's intervention in the New Source Review Program proposal by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. We urge the U.S. EPA to reconsider its NSR proposal to ensure that the people of Ontario are protected from transboundary air pollution. Pollution Probe has been concerned about U.S. coal plant emissions for the past decade. And we applaud the leadership by Ontario in reducing smog emissions, in particular by moving off of coal-fired electricity generation." Ken Ogilvie, Executive Director Pollution Probe Ottawa, Ontario ------------------------------------------------------------------------- "Air quality is one of the predominant environmental challenges facing governments today. Air pollution causes widespread health effects, leading to extensive hospital admissions and premature deaths. The Ontario Medical Association estimates that in Ontario alone, air pollution causes tens of thousands of hospital visits and thousands of premature deaths each year. Most of the air pollution affecting Ontario residents comes from the Midwestern states in the U.S. Cross border cooperation is clearly essential to effectively address this problem. Sustainable solutions must focus on innovation, new technologies and collaboration within a framework of appropriate legislation, standards and incentives. In this context, Ontario's submission to the U.S. EPA builds on the past history of successful acid rain collaboration, and looks to the future of a cleaner, healthier environment for people living on both sides of the border. The report presents a compelling analysis of the sources of the problem, the impacts, and the changes required to address it. I commend Minister Broten for her vision, and urge the EPA Administrator not to proceed with the proposed new rules which would constitute an enormous backward step with devastatingly negative consequences." Dr. David V. J. Bell Member of the National Round Table on Environment and Economy Professor Emeritus and Former Dean Faculty of Environmental Studies, York University Toronto, Ontario ------------------------------------------------------------------------- "Ontario's Environment Minister Laurel Broten should be congratulated on today's submission to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency with respect to its proposal to roll back almost thirty years of air pollution control laws. New Brunswick and Ontario have joined together often in the past to fight for tougher air pollution and acid rain laws in the United States. Our citizens, after all, both sit at the end of North American's tailpipe. I hope New Brunswick's Environment Minister will join Minister Broten in advocating for clean air and environmental protection with our American neighbours." David Coon, Policy Director Conservation Council of New Brunswick Fredericton, New Brunswick ------------------------------------------------------------------------- "For too long, Canadian governmental leadership on pollution has been sorely lacking. This Ontario government initiative to protect the environment and human health is very welcome and, we hope, marks an important turning point in the fight for clean air." Dr. Rick Smith, Executive Director Environmental Defence Canada Toronto, Ontario ------------------------------------------------------------------------- "This backward step in air policy will have serious implications on the public and environmental health of Ontario and all downwind jurisdictions. I applaud Minister Broten and the provincial government for taking a stand on behalf of everyone affected by transboundary air pollution." Dr. L. David Pengelly, Ph.D., P.Eng. Associate Clinical Professor, Department of Medicine, McMaster University Associate Professor, Department of Medicine, University of Toronto Professor Emeritus, Department of Engineering Physics, McMaster University Hamilton, Ontario ------------------------------------------------------------------------- "The U.S. EPA's proposed modifications to the new source rule would be a major step backwards in federal policy on air quality in the United States. The Government of Ontario's response reflects the seriousness of the implications for the health and environment of the province's residents of the EPA's proposals." Mark Winfield, Director, Environmental Governance The Pembina Institute Toronto, Ontario ------------------------------------------------------------------------- "As President and CEO of the New Brunswick Lung Association, I fully support strengthening, not weakening, the New Source Review component of the U.S. Clean Air Act. This vital piece of legislation must not be weakened and must not be changed along the lines now up for consideration. I congratulate Ontario's Minister of Environment for this submission to the U.S. EPA. The environmental and health science in Ontario's submission is clear. It documents how a significant amount of Ontario's smog originates from emission sources in the United States. New Brunswick, too, suffers from the import of air pollution from American sources. Minister Broten's leadership in Ontario serves not only the public health interests of people in her province, but indeed, all people down wind of toxic emissions from power plants. To protect the health of New Brunswick, the Administrator of the U.S. EPA must not allow NSR to be weakened as proposed. We fully agree with the submission prepared by Ontario. The Administrator must ensure that this key piece of the Clean Air Act is left intact and is effectively enforced." Kenneth Maybee, President and CEO New Brunswick Lung Association Fredericton, New Brunswick ------------------------------------------------------------------------- "Sierra Legal Defence Fund applauds the Ontario government for taking action to oppose the U.S. EPA proposal to roll back provisions that protect people in the Great Lakes area from harmful emissions to air. Sierra Legal has itself filed a petition with the U.S. EPA that may lead to court action if the agency does not act to reduce emission of pollutant from U.S. coal fired plants that endanger the health and welfare of Canadians. The Ministers' decision to file this submission adds an authoritative voice in harmony with those across the border that are being raised against health threatening transboundary air pollution." Robert V. Wright, Counsel & Managing Lawyer Sierra Legal Defence Fund Toronto, Ontario ------------------------------------------------------------------------- "To maximize the public health benefits of Ontario's coal phase out we must also reduce the pollution that comes to us from U.S. coal plants. This McGuinty Government initiative addresses the cross-border component of Ontario's effort to reduce air pollution and save lives." Dan McDermott, Director, Ontario Chapter Sierra Club of Canada Toronto, Ontario www.ene.gov.on.caFor further information: Anne O'Hagan, Minister's Office, (416) 325-5809; John Steele, Communications Branch, (416) 314-6666