Provincial climate plan could be devastating says Dawn-Euphemia mayor

Union Gas' Dawn facility at night

Dawn-Euphemia Mayor Al Broad says if the province tries to move away from the use of natural gas to help the environment it could be “devastating” for the municipality and its biggest industry.

A report in The Globe and Mail recently unveils the province’s $7 billion climate change plan. The 80-page report calls for everything from helping school boards buy electric buses to having 12 per cent of the vehicles on the roads use electricity by 2025.

But the part of the plan which is raising a lot of eyebrows is the province’s plan to move away from the use of natural gas. The Globe and Mail reports the province plans $3.8 billion in grants to retrofit buildings, moving them away from natural gas onto geothermal, solar power or other forms of electric heat. Seventy-six per cent of homes in Ontario use natural gas for heating.

The report says the province also plans to change the building code to require homes and small buildings built in 2030 to be heated without fossil fuels such as natural gas.

Environment Minister Glenn Murray has denied the report but Broad is waiting to see what the province announces in June.

“My first thought is I want to see the actual report,” he tells The Independent. “But I would be extremely disappointed if the Ontario government was trying to do that.”

Union Gas is in the middle of a $2 billion expansion which includes a $250 million compressor station in Dawn-Euphemia. Broad and his council have been very supportive of the expansion and have been vocal in their support of expanding natural gas into the rural areas. Many farm businesses could cut their costs by tens of thousands of dollars if they could use natural gas for drying their grain. Right now, they have to pay big bucks to get natural gas lines extended to the area. Last year, the province offered $230 million in loans to extend gas lines into rural areas as well as for business to access natural gas, but Broad says “the province is struggling in how it is going to run it (natural gas) through more of the rural municipalities.” Broad says two bigger projects in Central Ontario have been delayed by the Ontario Energy Borad.

“What they are trying to do is a very delicate subject…you have a bunch of people who have already paid to get gas down their road and now the province is going to step in…I think they have really struggled with how they are going to do what they want to do.”

Broad is hoping the climate plan is not the reason the rural plan has been delayed.

He adds the whole idea is confusing.

“I find it totally unbelievable they would convert hydro plants into natural gas and in the next breath…try to eliminate natural gas.

“If it is true, Union Gas operates a world-class facility in Dawn-Euphemia…the thousands of jobs they create, not only within their own company but also in construction – it would be devastating if – if- if they were trying to do it.

“It would be devastating for our municipality.”

And he wonders if the move to electric-based heating is based on more than climate changes.

“I can believe the Ontario government want to subsidize people putting electricity in; the Ontario government has (Hydro One) shareholders that they seem to be more worried about than its hydro users. How better can you market a commodity than to force a demand?”