Headlines like âGas plant plume poses âno threatâ â and âPlantâs yellow plume no cause for alarmâ about Halton Hills Generating Station emissions, as well as statements like âIt was just scrap; Plenty of smoke, little dangerâ mentioned in Hamilton Spectator post are great at driving home one message: Keep Calm and Carry On.
But while it worked to raise the morale of the British during WWII, itâs far from putting me at ease. Really? âNo cause for alarm?â âNo concerns regarding environmental impact?â Thank you, Mr. spokesperson for the company (TransCanada) whose plant is worrying my neighbors enough to want to complain to the Ministry of the Environment. I appreciate that pollution may be within ânormal limitsâ, but wouldnât it be nice to know if itâs on the higher end of the norm, bordering the limit, or way way below what the industry average is?
Our tap water is probably within ânormal limitsâ, but many of us choose to filter it first before we drink it. All food in grocery stores has to be up to health standards to âmeet regulationsâ, but many choose to buy organic. Baby products almost certainly pass safety regulations, but we still research them, we read energy star ratings on appliances, look for car safety data â all to ensure our families consume only the âbestâ, according to your criteria.
So why wouldnât I care about emissions data for a plant only 3 minutes away from my home? Why wouldnât I want to have a choice to drill into the data on the volume of chemicals that leave that smoke stack and enter my back yard, my home, my childâs lungs? Oh, I am no chemist, nor am I an environmental activist. Iâm just a guy who likes to have an option to read the ingredients label to understand what Iâm consuming, if I so choose!
Thatâs where Open Data becomes such a critical factor in building trust not only between the government and its citizens, but also between companies and their customers. Even though Environment Canada gathers and makes publically available pollution data in its NPRI database, its most recent data is 2 years old! Thatâs why I couldnât find any data on the Halton Hills plant in EMITTER.CA, a site thatÂ visualizes NPRI data for any address in Canada. It’s because the Halton Hills plant began its commercial operations in 2010 according to Ontario Power Authorityâs website.
This is bigger than the government regulations. Itâs an opportunity for the company whose operations are causing concerns to step up and share the actual data for whatâs being released in the air. Yes, TransCanada, hereâs your chance to build a solid reputation with us, residents of Halton, who drive by your plant daily, wondering what and how much is being emitted from your stacks. I love your Public Safety and Awareness page and your Corporate Responsibility Reports, but how about the actual emissions data for your operations? Can we see that?
So, how about it, TransCanada? Put your money where your mouth is. Prove that thereâs nothing to be worried about by opening your emissions data. Let us make up our mind based on the numbers, not your reassuring statements. Otherwise, it just seems like youâre blowing smoke.