PEC CLC has an unpromising beginning

Well, the Portlands Energy Centre (PEC) Community Liason Committee (CLC) has met for the first time, and as we should have expected, it’s an exercise of PEC facing off against the community under the cover of “talking”.  It was disappointing.

Here’s a little background.  The PEC called the first CLC meeting back in November 2006, and presented a proposed Terms of Reference (ToR) for the CLC which indicated that they would meet during the term of construction and for one year into regular operations and discuss such things as construction impacts.  They repeatedly asserted that the PEC would be built, and opponents of the plant were not welcome on the CLC.  They faced off against an angry crowd that demanded fundamental changes to the ToR.

Toronto Energy Coalition co-chairs Matthew Kellway and Brian McInnis spearheaded a charge to unite community leaders and to develop a ToR acceptable to the community.  The resulting document, which community leaders supported unanimously, and which PEC finally agreed to just the day before the second community meeting, was a vast improvement on PEC’s proposal.

These improvements began with the purpose of the CLC, which was now defined to be:

to provide meaningful community input into the design, construction and operation of the PEC for the purpose of mitigating the health and environmental impacts of the PEC on the community.

The mandate listed some very promising areas of discussion with potential for dramatically reducing the harm caused.  In particular the mandate stated that

the CLC will act in the interest of the community with the intention of:

  • Ensuring that the design of the PEC minimizes environmental impacts and is consistent with, or conforms to, the design, construction and/or operational limits/thresholds determined by the CLC (see bullet 5 below)
  • Ensuring that the design of the PEC is consistent with and/or responsive to existing Portlands revitalization plans including, but not limited to, the following: Lake Ontario Park Master Planning Process; Tommy Thompson Park Master Plan (revised); ESA 130; Unwin Avenue Realignment E.A.; Navigable Waters Act and Fisheries Canada.
  • Ensuring minimum environmental impacts (including, but not limited to, safety, air quality, water quality, noise and vibration) from construction activities (including the transportation of materials to and from the site by whatever means).
  • Determining and continuously monitoring the health and environmental impacts of the PEC on the community and local ecology including, but not limited to, air quality and water quality.
  • Determining and continously establishing the electricity system constraints and requirements that give rise to the need for electricity generation in downtown Toronto, generally, and on the Portlands, specifically.
  • On an ongoing basis, determining health and environmental limits/thresholds that will impact on the design and construction of the PEC and constrain the operation of the PEC.
  • Recommending to authorities alternative measures and/or programs to meet the electricity system constraints and/or requirements that give rise to the PEC.

After the January meeting established the membership of the CLC, Matt, Brian and other community leaders including Dennis Findlay, who now chairs the Community Subcommittee and John Carley of Friends of the Spit, met to develop a community response to the first item under discussion, which was the landscaping plan.  John Carley headed up the response to this item, basically suggesting that the PEC redraw their landscaping plan with input from TWRC, TRCA and other city agencies to make sure that it is integrated with Lake Ontario Park, Tommy Thompson Park, the Unwin Street realignment and other ongoing initiatives.  It was also suggested that some of the parking be made available to the community when not in use by PEC employees.

This should have been easy.  The ToR the PEC agreed to had basically already insisted on this anyway, almost word-for-word.  Besides, the site is a long way from landscaping, nothing has been set in concrete and it will not make a material difference to operations if a tree is planted to the south or to the east.

Yet the response from PEC was that this would be difficult because the landscape plans have already been approved.  So how are we to take seriously that the CLC will have “meaningful community input” into “design, construction and operation”?  It would seem the PEC people have signed onto a ToR they had every intention of ignoring.  If the demands for landscaping changes are not met essentially in full, then the CLC is a complete sham — a means by which the PEC can claim to participate in discussions with the community while carrying on as usual.

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