This past June, we came across this in an interview with Ontario’s Environment Minister John Wilkinson about his efforts to promote wind power in the province.
Q: Minister, your government has been very aggressive with its Green Energy Act and wind turbines have sprouted by the hundreds across Southwestern Ontario and hundreds more are in the works. Why?
A: Parents want clean air for their children to breathe. The number one reason that children go to emergency rooms in the province of Ontario is because of asthma. The number one reason for asthma is poor air quality and the number one reason for poor air quality is the smog which is the result of our dependence on things like dirty coal-fired generation. I got into politics because I used to sit in the emergency room of Stratford General Hospital with my son Liam as a little boy and he couldn’t breathe and I would hold a ventolin mask over his face . . . We all have a right to clean air to breathe and so for the last eight years we have been working as hard as we can to clean up the air. I was delighted in our last air quality report which said we enjoy the best air quality we’ve had in well over a decade because we are doing the things that are required to get they sky to be blue again, instead of that brown-yellow haze it was a decade ago.
We wrote to him to ask him to submit a guest piece. Yesterday we received this reply. We thank him for taking the time to respond.:
Thank you for your e-mail of June 13, 2011 regarding my interview with the QMI Agency about the Government of Ontario’s energy policies, and references to my son’s asthma.
While I appreciate your invitation to submit a “guest interview” that would be of interest to your website readers, I believe it would be more helpful to simply refer you and others interested in this important topic to the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care website. The on-line report by Colin O. D’Cunha, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, titled “Taking Action on Asthma” is a wealth of information. (Link here.)
As for the Ontario Government’s commitment to developing renewable sources of energy, including wind turbine projects, it is our firm belief that building clean, renewable sources of energy will help us reduce harmful emissions that can compromise human health while combating climate change.
Our government is on schedule to phase out all of the province’s coal-fired electricity by the end of 2014. This action is the single largest climate-change initiative in North America within that timeframe. Last year, we closed four coal-fired units, the equivalent of taking two million cars off Ontario’s roads. We are currently converting the Atikokan unit to carbon-neutral biomass and two additional units at Nanticoke will be shut down by the end of 2011, three years ahead of schedule. At the same time, Ontario is also making unprecedented investments in renewable energy and conservation to ensure that adequate and cost-effective replacement resources to coal will be in place. We are ensuring that the lights stay on and that both the environment and human health are protected.
Your readers in the U.S. will also be interested to learn that my ministry is working with federal and state authorities, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), to address concerns about transboundary air pollution and improve our shared airshed.
I recently wrote to the Honourable Lisa P. Jackson, the U.S. EPA Administrator, to acknowledge Ontario’s support for that agency’s proposed rulemaking to establish national emissions standards for hazardous air pollutants, including mercury, from coal- and oil-fired electricity generating units (EGUs) and to revise new source performance standards for fossil-fuel fired EGUs (Utility Air Toxics Rule). The emissions reductions required by the Utility Air Toxics Rule will benefit human health and the environment on both sides of the border. We commend the EPA for this proposed course of action. For more information about this work, your readers can visit the website here.
Thank you for your good work, and for this opportunity to comment on my government’s focus on improving air quality.