Mines at risk in Thunder Bay power plant closure, officials say – by John Spears (Toronto Star – November 3, 2012)

The Toronto Star has the largest circulation in Canada. The paper has an enormous impact on federal and Ontario politics as well as shaping public opinion.

Suspending a project to convert Thunder Bay’s coal-burning power plant to natural gas threatens the well-being of northwest Ontario’s booming mining sector, according to local politicians. And the Ontario Mining Association is also taking a close look at the impact decision, a spokesman said.

They were reacting to the Ontario government’s decision to halt work on converting the Thunder Bay plant to gas. It now burns coal, but the province has pledged to shut down all coal plants by the end of 2014. The Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association put out a sharply worded release on the news.

“These actions put at risk billions of dollars of investment in the mining sector by raising concerns that the required power may not be there when it is needed,” said Ron Nelson, president of the association.

The province says that converting the 300-megawatt Thunder Bay plant isn’t needed, because the area’s needs can be served by a new transmission line scheduled to go into service in 2017.

The line still doesn’t have final regulatory approval, however.

Halting the conversion of the Thunder Bay plant leaves industry dangling between 2014 and 2017, said Nelson.

And he said he’s never seen any plans of how the planned new line will bring in enough power to fill the burgeoning demand.

Energy minister Chris Bentley said Thursday that the conversion has simply been put on pause. Bentley said he’s asked power planners to assure him that the new power line can do the job.

Bentley says that cancelling the gas plant conversion could save up to $400 million.

But the pause was triggered by the fact that Union Gas, which is building a new gas line to supply the area, needs to order pipe.

Union is now proceeding with a smaller sized pipeline – one not designed to serve a major gas-fired power plant.

For the rest of this article, please go to the Toronto Star website: http://www.thestar.com/business/article/1281842–mines-at-risk-in-thunder-bay-power-plant-closure-officials-say