Environmentalists say pollution credits let companies pay to pollute

Last month Environment Minister Tony Clement promised to get tough on polluters and clean up the province's air but some environmentalists said the plan will make Ontario's air pollution problem worse.

Ontario's smog problem is one of the worst in North America, killing almost 2,000 people in the province per year.

The government's plan includes setting new emissions caps for all Ontario companies but the caps aren't absolute.

If a company goes over its limit, it can buy so-called pollution credits from another company which is under its limit.

In theory, pollution would drop overall because accumulating credits would be profitable for companies and companies going over emission limits would be fined.

But a group of environmentalists said the government's plan would allow companies to buy credits from other companies that are already at their maximum pollution level.

Jack Gibbons of the Ontario Clean Air Alliance said Clement's proprosal would permit Ontario Power to increase emissions of its coal-fired power plants by 54 per cent.

Liberal Environment Critic Jim Bradley said the government's efforts to be business-friendly translate into allowing them to pollute.

But Clement promised his plan, which is still being drafted, will reduce air pollution as soon as it's put in place next year.