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Halton Hills Council votes against contentious power plant expansion

9-2 decision draws applause from residents
Atura Power's Halton Hills generating station.

It’s official - the Town is saying no to Atura’s power plant expansion plans in Halton Hills.

After listening to hours of delegations, including heartfelt pleas from several local residents, Halton Hills Council voted 9-2 Monday evening (Dec. 11) to turn down Atura’s request for support of its proposal to add one turbine with up to 265 megawatts of electricity output at its Hornby facility.

Councillors Joseph Racinsky and D’Arcy Keene were the members of council who voted in favour of the expansion.

The decision comes on the heels of Atura offering to give Halton Hills up to almost $3.5 million over 12 years in exchange for a municipal support resolution, which would’ve been forwarded to the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) - the final decision-making authority.

Atura has previously indicated it will not submit its proposal to the IESO if the Town of Halton Hills doesn’t provide its support before the Dec. 12 deadline.

Council’s vote drew applause from the audience in council chambers, with many of those in attendance being local residents who opposed the power plant expansion due to health and environmental concerns.

The matter even brought out local youth Matthew Tyhurst, a 16-year-old student from Georgetown High who was encouraged by his peers to delegate to council.

Local youth Matthew Tyhurst speaks to Halton Hills Council. Town of Halton Hills screenshot

He reminded those around the table about the Town’s goal of reaching net zero emissions by 2030 and questioned how the municipality will achieve its goal if it supports a power plant expansion.

“I hope you keep the promises you yourself have set forward,” he said to the council members.

“I challenge you to think about when your grandchildren or great grandchildren will come up to you and ask, ‘What is snow? How come there are no more winters? How come people are getting sick from the air outside? How come we have so many more tsunamis, hurricanes and wildfires?’ And most importantly when they ask this question, ‘How come you didn’t do enough to stop this?’”

While the majority of council ended up opposing Atura’s request for support, with some citing residents’ impassioned pleas as their reason for doing so and others speaking of their desire to see renewable energy sources pursued instead, a couple councillors still went to bat for Atura’s plans.

Councillor Racinsky - who represents the rural area, including Hornby where the Atura plant is located - said he hasn’t heard any concerns about the proposed expansion from the company’s neighbours.

“Our reality is that this plant is here already and it’s not going anywhere, and the neighbours don’t care (about the expansion),” he contended, noting he’s aware resentment does still exist in Hornby about the power plant being built there in the first place.

He added the IESO has said natural gas is needed to supply electricity, and “the reliability of Ontario’s grid should be priority number one.”

Councillor Keene also spoke in favour of the expansion, saying council has a responsibility to ensure core services are provided efficiently and reliably for the growing municipality.

“In the short term, the right decision is to make sure we have enough power for this community,” he said, adding he feels the alternative power sources suggested aren’t “realistic.”

As a bit of an aside during his comments, Keene said, “We all come to these arguments with biases and we do tend to exaggerate and try to push our point of view by using politically-charged terms.

“I do resent terms like ‘fossil fuel,’ because we’re all dinosaurs and Flintstones, or ‘climate change deniers,’ like we’re Holocaust deniers. I don’t like that and I will stand up against it.”

Meanwhile, Councillor Clark Somerville said he had been prepared to support Atura’s request. But after long discussions with colleagues, and a phone call over the weekend from someone in the medical field about an increase in juvenile asthma rates in nearby Milton and Mississauga, he said his decision has changed.

“It is because of the emissions - that’s probably the biggest (reason),” he said, noting the communities around Halton Hills take the brunt of the emissions burden from the plant.

“I just can’t in good conscience vote yes to the proposal tonight.”

Councillor Jane Fogal, who co-founded the Halton Hills Climate Action team, told her council colleagues, “Addressing climate change is simple - it’s done by making one good decision at a time. This is our time.”

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Melanie Hennessey

About the Author: Melanie Hennessey

Melanie Hennessey serves as the editor for HaltonHillsToday. She has lived in Halton Hills for almost two decades and has spent the past several years covering the community as a journalist.
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