We all know that children love to test boundaries. If mom or dad says no, a child is likely to cross the line just once to see what will happen. The only thing stopping that child from repeating the behaviour is a firm reprimand from the parent. Parents who don't act risk having their other children follow the misbehaviour. I've watched enough Supernanny to know that kids can smell weakness.
Although I don't have any children of my own, I do have a federal government that should take a close look at a power company acting like a kid, with its attempts to skirt the rules on coal-fired power plants.
In 2010, Canada's then-Environment Minister Jim Prentice announced that new regulations would take effect in five years requiring new and aging coal-fired power plants to meet tougher emissions standards. Minister Prentice warned that the government would "guard against any rush to build non-compliant coal plants in the interim".
Despite this clear message from Minister Prentice, the Alberta government has given approval for Maxim Power Corp. to begin building a coal-fired power plant north of Grand Cache that would not meet the incoming regulations. By rushing construction so it won't have to meet the standards, Maxim would be able to emit an additional 1.5 million tonnes of greenhouse gas pollution each year for its 45-year lifespan. The total additional pollution is equivalent to putting 300,000 vehicles on the road.
Coal has no place in a clean-energy future with all of the available alternatives. We shouldn't be building any more plants, period. But if new development is going to be permitted, the government needs to keep its promise and not allow plants to be rushed to completion to avoid responsibility for their pollution. As economist Mark Jaccard noted in a recent Globe and Mail opinion article, "Stephen Harper can't allow new coal-fired electricity plants to be built, such as the one Maxim Power is proposing in Alberta, and achieve his promise to reduce Canadian greenhouse-gas emissions 17 per cent by 2020."
Environment Minister Peter Kent has a choice: he can allow Maxim Power to ignore his government's warning and send a message to other developers that defiance will go unpunished, or he can uphold the promise and show that the government is serious about reducing environmental and health impacts from coal-fired power.
Let Minister Kent know you expect him to follow through on his government's word and give the Maxim Power proposal a permanent time out.