Dirty Ontario Power Plants Cloud Canada-U.S. Smog Talks

Ontario's dirty coal-fired power plants are expected to weaken Canada's negotiating position with the United States during air-quality talks.

Ontario's dirty coal-fired power plants are expected to weaken Canada's negotiating position as Ottawa and Washington continue their most important air-quality talks since the acid rain treaty of 1991.

The goal of the talks, which began yesterday, is to reduce transboundary smog -- scientifically known as ground-level ozone -- plaguing Eastern Canada and the British Columbia Lower Mainland.

Environment Minister David Anderson said he is committed to a strong treaty by the end of the year, noting that smog kills an estimated 5,000 Canadians annually.

The Environment Department says 35 to 90 percent of the smog in Eastern Canada comes from the United States.

However, Anderson conceded that Ontario's emissions may weaken Canada's position in the talks.

"If we don't have Ontario doing as much as the Americans, the Americans are unlikely to listen to the Canadian government in the effort to reduce smog," said Anderson.

The two sides will also aim to set emission targets and set a schedule for cutting pollutants.

One Canadian negotiator seemed optimistic about the talks, saying the United States and Canada plan to cut air-pollution levels by 45 to 50 percent.

The next negotiating session will take place in Washington on June 14 when the two groups will fix firm reduction targets and timetables for achieving them.

Environmentalists said Ontario's six coal-fired plants pollute at a rate about three times higher than allowed by New York state.

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