Environmentalists from across the province are urging Halton Hills Council to ‘just say no’ to Atura Power’s plans for expansion at its local generating plant.
Representatives from groups like the Ontario Clean Air Alliance and Environmental Defence turned out to yesterday’s (Oct. 30) council meeting to speak against the proposal to add one turbine to the facility at Steeles Avenue and Sixth Line.
The turbine with up to 265 megawatts of electricity output would be powered by natural gas to start, with the potential to switch to hydrogen as it becomes available. Atura says it has a $400-million budget for the proposed expansion.
While final approvals are ultimately given at the provincial level, municipalities are asked to provide consent - something council is expected to debate at its Dec. 11 meeting.
Before hearing from residents during Monday’s meeting, Atura senior manager of business development Brad Kyte first made a case to council for the expansion.
He said that electricity generated at the Atura station is “critical” to ensure grid reliability during peak demand periods by backing up wind and solar power.
He also spoke of Atura’s plans to blend hydrogen into the local generating station, starting in early 2025.
He said the initial phase will blend up to 15 per cent hydrogen with natural gas. According to Atura, this would result in a greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction of up to 23,000 tonnes per year.
In speaking to council, Jack Gibbons of the Ontario Clean Air Alliance contended the Province can avoid the need for new gas plants all together by investing in wind and solar energy.
“We have much cleaner and lower-cost options to keep our lights on,” he said.
Gibbons went on to ask council - as did the eight others who spoke during the meeting - to join with municipalities that have come out against gas-fired power plant projects and say no to Atura’s plans.
Local resident Monika Caemmerer echoed Gibbons’ call for renewable energy sources like water, solar and wind.
“Let’s start phasing out gas plants and move toward a clean energy future,” she said.
Keith Brooks of Environmental Defence contended that fossil fuels are the main driver of climate change, while Dr. Mili Roy of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment spoke to the health implications of air pollution, which she said can cause everything from asthma and bronchitis to heart disease, stroke and cancer.
Some members of council pointed to the town’s target of achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, with Mayor Ann Lawlor questioning how Atura will compensate for the increase in emissions generated by the proposed expansion.
“From a global perspective, I think we actually see our operations as having a huge net positive impact,” Kyte responded.
Lawlor pushed further, asking what the company would do “to mitigate the damage this pollution is going to create in this community?”
“That’s something we have to take away,” said Kyte. “We have to give that some thought.”
In addressing Kyte, Councllor D’Arcy Keene noted, “Not all of us (on council) agree that the creation of a new hydrocarbon-burning facility is going to create biblical floods in the future.”
For further details on Atura’s proposal, visit aturapower.com/haltonexpansion.