Do the smart thing

Dear editor:
Please accept this letter to Premier Dalton McGuinty.
Atikokan, Ont. is home to about 3,500 people, with an economy built around three major employers. The Atikokan generating station alone accounts for about 20 percent of that fragile economy.
If your government closes the Atikokan generating station, that economy will surely collapse. Property taxes already are outrageously high and our infrastructure is in a great state of disrepair.
Fibratech (particle board) recently has returned from extinction due to a large investment from a group led by a local man while Atikokan Forest Products (lumber) is hanging on despite the ever-increasing turmoil in the north’s debate over wood rights.
This does not paint a pretty picture of the town that I grew up in and, indeed, hope to retire in. We in the north understand that we are second-class citizens to the elite people in the rich south, but we stay here because we love the lifestyle.
Our children can go to the park and we don’t have to worry, we can enjoy the wilderness, and we have a sense of family throughout the town which cannot be found in the city.
Your government will destroy this town by closing the coal plant and with it, our lifestyle and our history
As a technician for Ontario Power Generation (OPG), I personally have been involved in data collection from environmental monitoring stations that were set up when the plant was first built.
Over the years of monitoring for SO2, NO, and NOX, the only discernible traces of acid rain were detected (with a south wind) at Lac la Croix on the American border and we all know where the SO2 was coming from—the United States.
At the other monitoring stations, no environmental impact was noted. NONE! In fact, the monitoring stations were decommissioned because the MoE found them to be pointless.
Please do not tell me the plant closure is environmentally driven. It is politics—pure and simple! We, in Atikokan, are simply pawns in some twisted game of “power” chess your government is playing and we want no part of it!
Since I started with Ontario Hydro in 1980, there constantly has been the threat of plant closures and unemployment. We have endured countless changes at many levels, including government, management, and locally at the plant level, yet through it all, my colleagues and I have done our best to persevere and keep the lights on.
Safety, environmental awareness, and efficient use of all resources have been key words to each and every one of us.
It appears we have come to a crossroads, or perhaps I should say your government has brought us there with your purely politically decision to shut down the remaining coal-fired generating stations.
I cannot help but admire how your government has twisted the debate to brainwash the people of this province. It was truly masterful how your “objective” study on the health effects of coal-fired electricity generators concluded that almost 700 deaths per year are directly attributed to burning coal.
That takes a real magician to pull those numbers of thin air. Introducing “Dwight the Magnificent!”
Does your government really believe the people of Ontario are so naïve that they actually will buy the nonsense you are trying to sell? Of course, if this is the only information that is out there, one can hardly blame the average citizen for buying it.
I challenge the Ontario government and all its ministers to question the validity of the information being presented in the battle of coal and natural gas.
Please ask yourselves: who are the key players in the fight to bring natural gas to the forefront? Are they lobbying for the best interest of the Ontario citizen or is there another reason?
Should we all agree that using the last 20 years of this precious resource for electrical generation is the best way to go, or should we ask more questions about the clean coal technology that has been proven and is in use globally?
Should we stand silently by as the price of electricity is tied directly to the price of the natural gas that is in such short supply? Can we afford to pay triple the amount for electricity and natural gas for heating our homes?
I think we cannot—and we must not!
While it is true the construction of Atikokan generating station was a political gesture to soften the blow of the iron ore mines’ closure, the plant is now the most efficient and cheapest of all OPG’s fossil plants.
It can provide many more years of safe, reliable, and environmentally benign electrical generation with the addition of clean coal technology at a fraction of the cost of new construction.
Please consider carefully the effects of your politically-driven decision when the time comes to sign on the dotted line. We are counting on you to do the right thing, the smart thing, and keep this plant powering the north!
Gary Sanders
Atikokan, Ont.