Shut the province’s coal plants, health professionals’ group urges

The Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE) says coal plants are currently causing big problems in Ontario, and Toronto is no exception.

Gideon Forman, executive director of CAPE, says coal just isn’t worth the issues it creates.

“Coal really is the dirtiest fuel around,” he said. “When you burn it, it creates a lot of lung disease.  It creates a lot of climate change, acid rain and smog.”

Forman says the issues around the coal plants affect all Torontonians whether they realize it or not and the upcoming months — as the weather gets warmer — are when it affects people the most.

“Almost everyone knows a child with an asthma problem, for example. That’s going to be made much worse by the coal. We need to make the personal connections clearer to be public,” he said. “Air pollution makes it harder to breathe in the summer months; coal is a huge contributor.”

CAPE has been involved in pushing the Ontario government to close the coal plants in the province. The group was recently recognized by the 2011 Green Toronto Awards for their accomplishments: They assisted in the push that closed four coal units. It isn’t a whole plant, but Forman says it’s the equivalent of taking about two million cars off the road.

With a provincial election coming up in October, Forman says this is a great opportunity for Torontonians to be heard on this issue.

“They’ve (the Ontario government) promised to close the plants by 2014. We’re saying it can and should happen sooner,” he said. “We’re asking people in the upcoming provincial election to ask and push their candidates to support this.”

Newly nominated PC candidate for the upcoming provincial election, Kevin Gaudet says the current McGuinty government has made plenty of promises on the timeline to close the coal plants but has not made good on many of those.

Gaudet’s running in the Scarborough East and Pickering riding.  He says this issue is of particular interest to those in this area.

“Our priories focus on clean nuclear power, which is especially important in my riding because we have a plant,” he said.

Gaudet hopes to see use nuclear power begin to rise as coal plants begin to fall.

CAPE is also pushing the province to “ramp up” on using renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and geothermal, Forman said.

“They are just much safer and cleaner,” he said.