Napanee Guide - Gas plant coming to Greater Napanee

Published on September 26th, 2012 in the Napanee Guide

The cancelled Oakville gas plant will be moved to an Ontario Power Generation site in Napanee in eastern Ontario, Energy Minister Chris Bentley announced Monday.

Local business and political leaders said it’s always a good thing when new jobs and infrastructure come into a small, rural community such as Greater Napanee.

“It’s always interesting when larger corporations take consideration in our area. We’ve supported other plants that have been in the area that have generated quality jobs for our community residents,” said Brad Way, president of the Napanee and District Chamber of Commerce, upon hearing the news. “I am just like any resident that might be concerned from an environmental perspective, but that’s without any education of the project, either.”

Stephen Paul, economic development director for Lennox & Addington County said it’s too early to speculate on the dollar figure of economic spin-offs that could be created from the construction project, but certainly believes there would be such spin-offs.

“From an economic development perspective this is a significant investment by a private corporation and the government in our community. Any time we have that happen, which creates 25 new permanent jobs and up to 600 construction jobs, that’s a pretty significant impact for Lennox & Addington County. This isn’t something that comes around every day, and for a rural community, it will be a significant investment,” he said.

While he hadn’t had a chance to take assess the numbers, Paul said he expects part-time and short-term jobs being available in the construction sector, and that the spin-offs from that alone would be significant.=

“And what ultimately happens is you have new dollars that are in a community, so those who many be working in the construction jobs now have dollars that are spent in restaurants, shopping and those other things that happen when you have income that is available to spend locally,” Paul explained. “And potentially you’re looking at contractors and companies that will be coming from outside that will be spending those dollars in the local economy.

“And these are well-paying jobs, highly technical, highly skilled and that’s important for a community to be able to attract those jobs here.”

Greater Napanee Mayor Gord Schermerhorn is of a similar mind, in terms of the positive economic benefits to having such a facility in the municipality.

“It’s 600 construction jobs, 25 permanent jobs, and millions of dollars spent in the construction. It’s going to be the most up-to-date plant that could possibly be. We’re very happy about that,” he said, a few minutes after chatting personally with Bentley.

He said he only heard about the news when most other people did, around noon hour on Monday, when Bentley made the public pronouncement.

“He said they’ve been negotiating for several months,” the mayor explained. “They thought it would be best to have it on OPG land. So this is why they made the announcement.”

Schermerhorn is hopeful that residents will welcome the development and the economic benefits it will bring.

“We already have a gas-fired and oil-fired too hydro station down there. I would hope they would be receptive, especially with the 600 jobs to build it and the 25 permanent positions created.”

During the announcement earlier in the day in Toronto, Bentley said that the provincial government’s unrecoverable costs from the cancellation were $40 million.

However, he still stood by the cancellation after continued complaints from Oakville residents.

“We have done the right thing by listening to local people,” Bentley said.

The surprise announcement came just hours before the 6 p.m. deadline Speaker Dave Levad had imposed on the government for releasing documents related to the decision in 2010 to cancel the Oakville plant.

Bentley had resisted releasing the documents to a legislative committee, arguing publication would compromise the government’s chance to get a good settlement with TransCanada Corp, the company that won the contract to build it.

Still, Ontario Tories say they will pursue a contempt motion against Bentley even if, as expected, he releases documents on the controversial cancellation of the Oakville and Mississauga gas plants.

Progressive Conservatives leader Tim Hudak said he intends to hold the Dalton McGuinty government to account for the costs of moving those plants.

“I don’t know whether it was orders from the Liberal campaign team, I don’t know whether it was orders from the premier’s office, but they’re putting Minister Bentley out on the cross on this,” Hudak said.

The Liberals spent a minimum of $190 million to cancel the Mississauga gas plant during the middle of the last provincial election campaign after backing it for six years, Hudak said.

“A lot of people say to me the Liberal Party should pay for that, not the taxpayer,” Hudak said.

Hudak appeared in the riding of Mississauga South just prior to the campaign to announce he wouldn’t build it.

The PC leader said previous local Conservative candidates had opposed it, and his party had never supported plants in unwilling communities.

“We’d always said look for a willing host community,” Hudak said.

Lanark-Frontenac-Lennox & Addington PC MPP Randy Hillier echoed the comments of his leader, wondering if the costs of moving the plant, and even having to build one on the site of the Lennox Generating Station is worth it for the taxpayers of Ontario, notwithstanding any jobs or economic spin-offs it may create.

He said that the Lennox Generating Station already is running under capacity, so why not just increase its output?

“So we’re spending in the order of $1.5 billion, about $1,000 per man woman and child in the province, to build another plant, beside a plant that idles, and will produce half as much as the existing plant will produce. We know that the demand for electricity is not in Napanee or Kingston. We know we have an excess of supply of power in eastern Ontario, and where there is a greater demand for power is in the densely populated GTA region. And we also know that to attain the greatest efficiencies and the greatest practicalities in the generation of power is to generate it as close to the demand as you can,” Hillier said, arguing that the it makes no sense to build a plant out in eastern Ontario, where there is no demand, rather than in places like Oakville or Mississauga, where the increased demands of power is actually occurring.

“This is going to, in the long term, drive up the delivery cost of electricity for all people in Ontario, just because you’re producing farther away from where the demand is. Why are we building a new plant to produce 900 megawatts, when we have an existing plant sitting there, doing next to nothing,” he continued.

“If Napanee was a great area, in a reasonable and practical and economically viable place to do it, why didn’t they just do it here originally?

“I like economic development. Don’t get me wrong, but I also like value for the taxpayer who pays for it. To spend $1.2 billion to dig a hole in Oakville; to spend a few hundred million dollars more to fill it in, is not sensible. I think that’s pretty clear.”

He said he and his party will continue to question the motivation and the logic of the provincial government’s entire strategy on placement and movement of gas plants.

- With files from Jonathan Jenkins, Antonella Artuso, QMI Agency