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Cablegate: Environment Canada's Dismay Over Ontario's

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

021835Z Aug 05

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 OTTAWA 002320

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

STATE FOR OES/E (MCMURRAY)
STATE ALSO FOR WHA/CAN, OES/ETC AND EB/ESC/ISC
EPA FOR INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS (CHRISTICH) AND OAR/OAP
(STEVENS)
DOE FOR INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS (DEUTSCH, PUMPHREY)

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SENV ENRG PGOV CA
SUBJECT: ENVIRONMENT CANADA'S DISMAY OVER ONTARIO'S
TRANSBOUNDARY AIR POLLUTION STUDY

REF: A. TORONTO 1901

B. TORONTO 1697
C. TORONTO 1580
D. 04 OTTAWA 3305

1. (U) Sensitive but unclassified. Not for distribution
outside USG channels.

2. (SBU) Summary: ESTOFFs met July 27 with officials from
Environment Canada regarding Ontario's Transboundary Air
Pollution Report (refs B and C), which attempted to estimate
costs to the province of air pollution from U.S. sources.
The Environment Canada officials believe that the report was
produced primarily for political reasons, and are concerned
about the negative impact the report could have on the work
of the U.S.-Canada Air Quality Committee. End summary.

3. (SBU) According to Environment Canada (EC) officials
involved in implementing transboundary air quality programs,
their department was not aware of the Ontario report until
its release. Further, no Ontario officials have briefed EC
personnel on the report, nor have they offered to do so. The
EC officials added that they have not had a chance to
carefully read the report, or analyze its findings that air
pollution causes C$9.6 billion in health and environmental
damages in Ontario each year (one Canadian dollar equals
about 80 cents U.S.). According to the report, 55 percent of
the health and environmental damages are attributable to U.S.
air pollution sources.

4. (SBU) The EC officials voiced their personal views that
the report is intended to serve as political cover for the
provincial government as it prepares to renege on its vow to
close Ontario's remaining coal-fired power plants (ref A).
The Ontario government, they opined, will use the report to
argue that closing Ontario coal plants now will simply mean
importing coal-generated electricity from the United States,
to the further harm of Ontario residents. Whatever Ontario's
ultimate strategy, the representatives said, provincial
officials are not sharing it with Environment Canada.

5. (SBU) At the Shared Air Summit in Toronto, which took
place shortly after the report's release (ref B), Premier
Dalton McGuinty delivered a keynote speech which called for
increased U.S.-Canada cooperation on air pollution. He made
no mention of the bilateral Air Quality Committee (AQC),
which has met annually since the 1991 U.S.-Canada Air Quality
Agreement. (Note: Ontario provincial representatives
attended and fully participated in the last AQC meeting in
Ottawa in December 2004 (ref D)). Thanks in large part to
bilateral efforts coordinated within the AQC, both the United
States and Canada have achieved reductions of up to 40
percent of 1990 emissions levels of nitrous oxides and sulfur
dioxide. Current AQC activities include joint action to
reduce emissions of volatile organic compounds, the
precursors to ground-level ozone, and several joint projects
to address common airshed issues, including a study in the
Detroit-Windsor area in which the Ontario Ministry of
Environment has been a full participant.

6. (SBU) In response to ESTOFFs' questions about the
suitability of the AQC as a forum to further discuss the
Ontario report, the EC officials said they would need
additional time to study the report before making a
recommendation. They noted that the AQC owes much of its
success to its non-politicized nature. Offering the AQC as a
forum to discuss a deeply political document could undercut
the AQC's more important work. Further, they said, placing
the report on the AQC's formal agenda could give it "more
attention than it deserves." One option could be a technical
meeting on the margins of the AQC to discuss the report's
findings, which would also allow questions to Ontario
officials on the report's methodology, findings, and purpose.

7. (SBU) The EC officials noted that the Ontario government
has retained a Washington D.C. attorney who has worked with
Canadian entities previously and is familiar with the Clean
Air Act. They speculated that the province might initiate
its own action against U.S. air pollution sources, or join an
existing suit filed against polluters by several U.S. states.
For the province to undertake such legal action while the
work of the AQC continues, they said, would be
counter-productive.

8. (SBU) Comment and action request: Whatever the
province's true motives for producing the study, the notion
that it will provide cover to keep the coal plants open is
certainly plausible. Nevertheless, we were surprised by the
complete lack of communication between the Ontario and both
federal governments, especially when prior cooperation at the
technical level had been exemplary. As we wait for the
provincial government to decide whether to pursue litigation
against U.S. companies, we would appreciate any USG analysis
of the findings of the report, which can be found at
www.sharedair.ca.

Visit Canada's Classified Web Site at
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/wha/ottawa

WILKINS

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