From the grandiose to the gritty, the visions for Toronto's derelict port lands include Olympic sports facilities, airports, parks and housing. But one proposal that's being greeted with cautious optimism by environmentalists -- much to the dismay of other greens and an NDP MPP -- is a plan by Ontario Power Generation and TransCanada Pipelines to build a huge natural gas plant in south Riverdale. The 550-megawatt Portlands Energy Centre, as it's been dubbed, would power 300,000 homes and convert excess steam to heat for local buildings.
"As we move toward renewables, we're going to need gas," says Keith Stewart, the Toronto Environmental Alliance's climate change campaigner. He lauds an energy source that will allow for the shutdown of dangerous nuclear and coal generators. "It would be possible to use this plant to shut down Lakeview," he says, referring to the coal generator in Port Credit, which the province insists must stop burning by 2005.
Dan McDermott, president of the Sierra Club of Canada, agrees with TEA's position, saying the plant could provide a bridge to renewable fuels in the future. But Greg Bonser, a Green-party-affiliated candidate for city council, says, "If we're going to have a world-class waterfront, we should be doing something interesting with power."
That's the view of Toronto-Danforth New Democrat MPP and environment critic Marilyn Churley, who's concerned that there may not be enough capacity to properly transmit the power the plant produces.
"Let's use this as an opportunity to build a community of the future," she says. "If we go ahead and start giving the green light to new fossil fuel capacity, we'll lose that opportunity."