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Clarington Mayor Addresses Burning Issues

Though construction of a waste from energy facility in Clarington remains a burning and contentious issue, in the end, dealing with important environmental issues comes down to separating the science from the politics. That’s the message Clarington Mayor Jim Abernethy shared with members of the business community at a recent Greater Oshawa Chamber of Commerce breakfast sponsored by Bob Owen and staff of Roy Nichols Motors Courtice. The philosophy comes from Canadian political commentator Rex Murphy and is easily applied here, the Mayor believes.

“The reality is that municipalities are responsible for dealing with garbage. It’s not a provincial or a federal issue,” he said. “The Region of Durham has been very proactive in being accountable to try and develop a made-in-Durham solution.”

In 1999, the Region developed a long-term strategic waste strategy that included diverting waste from landfill through recycling and composting programs. It passed a bylaw that banned new landfill sites within its borders and began researching opportunities to recover energy from landfill.

Abernethy’s presentation at Harmony Creek Golf Centre in Oshawa included slides illustrating three choices: zero waste, landfill, and energy from waste. The latter is the only viable option, the Mayor tells critics. “Zero waste is a goal, not a solution,” he says.

The proposed $215-million facility meets provincial environmental regulations and would produce electricity and potentially energy for district heating and cooling in the Clarington Energy Park – while producing fewer greenhouse gas emissions than landfill.

The Ministry of the Environment is expected to announce a decision on the energy from waste facility early this summer. “He can approve the (environmental assessment) process, he can refuse it … or he can approve it with conditions,” says Abernethy. 

Since the breakfast, Ontario Power Generation has announced plans to construct a nuclear office complex in the Clarington Energy Park. The facility will include 250,000-square-feet of office buildings and a full-sized mock nuclear reactor testing facility.
Planning, servicing and constructing the complex will take several years and is expected to create 3,000 new jobs, Abernethy reports. Construction of the proposed Darlington Refurbishment Complex is the first step to the scheduled refurbishment of Clarington Nuclear A reactors.

Meanwhile, the municipality continues to wait for the federal Energy and Infrastructure Ministry decision on the proposed new nuclear build, which involves the construction and operation of new nuclear power reactors at OPG’s Darlington Nuclear site.

Though the provincial government suspended the request for proposal process last summer, the federal approvals process has moved forward. Abernethy is optimistic, pointing to Minister Brad Duguid’s recent commitment to moving forward with the project, the planned decommissioning the Pickering nuclear plant in 10 years and the Province’s commitment to generating 50% of its base load energy needs through nuclear energy.

The Greater Oshawa Chamber of Commerce in the first quarter of 2009 wrote to both Prime Minister Harper and Ontario Premier McGuinty supporting a national Nuclear Energy Strategy that will continue to provide jobs, investment and economic strength for the Canadian economy in the coming decades. Its resolution calling upon key stakeholders in the nuclear manufacturing industry to work with all levels of government in Canada to create a more favourable climate for investment was supported by the Ontario and Canadian Chamber of Commerce at their AGMs in 2009.

“The Chamber realizes the resurgence of nuclear provides a global manufacturing opportunity for Canada and could provide thousands of highly-skilled, well paying, long-term jobs,” says Chamber CEO Bob Malcolmson.

In Clarington, those OPG projects underscore the need for numerous infrastructure projects, including improvements to Hwy. 401, extension of Hwy. 407 and extension of GO rail lines from Oshawa to Bowmanville.

Those infrastructure projects are key to the future growth of Clarington and Durham, Abernethy notes. Click here to view the Mayor’s PowerPoint presentation.