June 5, 1998

Text of letter sent by the International Joint Commission to:

The Honourable Lloyd Axworthy, P.C., M.P.
Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs


The Honorable Madeleine Albright
U.S. Secretary of State

The International Air Quality Advisory Board has informed the International Joint Commission of the impending reactivation of the Detroit Edison coal-fired power plant known as Conners Creek, located adjacent to the Detroit River, in greater Detroit. It is our understanding that the plant is to be started up within the next few weeks.

In keeping with the Commission's mandate under the 1966 air quality reference and pursuant to the Commission's responsibilities under the 1975 Detroit-Windsor air quality reference, the Commission alerts governments to its concerns about transboundary movement of airborne emissions of sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, particulate matter, and mercury from this coal-fired facility. The current state of air quality in the region has been the subject of much study over the past several years. The Commission notes that start-up of the plant will likely increase emissions of these contaminants, during the summer months, in a region where concentrations of ozone and particulate matter on occasion approach the limits of United States air quality standards and regularly exceed the limits of Ontario requirements.

The Commission has previously raised concerns with respect to mercury emissions from coal-fired power generation facilities and their potential impact on human health and the environment. It reiterates this concern with reactivation of the Conners Creek plant, and suggests that any increase in mercury emissions from such a facility would not be consistent with commitments made by the governments, under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, to virtually eliminate such substances from the Great Lakes ecosystem.

While the Commission cannot, at this time, determine the precise impact of reactivation of this facility on transboundary air quality, it expresses its concern that allowing the plant to operate without current emission control technology will further increase the transboundary flow of air contaminants, and lead to further deterioration of air quality in the Detroit-Windsor region.