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Sierra Club says spending billions on DRIC wrong (continued)

“I’m not going to suggest for a moment that infrastructure spending is a bad thing,” he said.

“I am going to suggest, however, that infrastructure spending to no purpose, that is environmentally destructive, is a bad thing and I would say that DRIC fits that definition in spades.”

The DRIC project would connect Hwy. 401 to a new international bridge to Detroit, which in turn would connect to the U.S. Interstate highway system, to expedite traffic and, in particular, remove the majority of trucks from the congested Talbot Road – Huron Church Rd. corridor leading to the Ambassador Bridge.

McDermott also doesn’t buy the argument the project would be a major economic boost for the Windsor area - one of the most economically-ravaged communities in Canada - creating upwards of 12,000 jobs.

McDermott says the project’s impact on the sensitive Ojibway Prairie Complex “seems to be being dismissed almost out of hand by the government of Ontario on the basis of social and economic need despite the fact that they haven’t been able to prove either.”

Told the Canadian and U.S. governments, as well as Ontario and Michigan, have signed-off on DRIC, McDermott replied, “and to me it’s an absolute head-scratcher as to why.”

He said that “in the day and age of global warming do we really need to be (sending) more cars to be on the road and making that transport easier, particularly in the situation where there’s no increase in traffic that would warrant even the consideration” of another crossing.

The Sierra Club, along with the Ambassador Bridge, in separate applications, have requested a judicial review of the recently-approved federal DRIC environmental assessment.

Construction on the project is expected to begin late this year.

Even though the environmental assessment was approved McDermott says the assessment itself notes that DRIC’s impact “will be substantial.”

The Ojibway complex has numerous rare plant and animal species.

He said the Sierra Club was alerted to the issue this past summer, largely by Michigan Sierra club and transportation activists, though he said environmentalists in Windsor share similar concerns.

As for arguments that DRIC would improve air quality by getting diesel fume-belching trucks out of populated west Windsor, McDermott said he is familiar with Windsor’s poor air quality and said that “90 per cent” of the pollution comes not from vehicles but from the U.S., mainly emissions from coal-fired power plants.

“Not that we can dismiss the local impact of vehicle emissions.”

He called DRIC an environmental “trade off” rather than “eliminating” the concerns altogether by reducing the use of trucks.

He said eventually the world will reach “peak oil” capacity and oil as a fuel will dwindle. He said instead the government should build rail infrastructure to move freight.

“We do not need to be making it easier for trucks to be the main means of moving goods either on our highways or across the border.”

He said jobs could also be created through more green energy projects.

"If you're going to spend those billions of dollars spend it on something for which there is a need."

Derek Coronado of Windsor’s Citizens Environment Alliance shared a number of those views.

“Obviously jobs is an important issue but the bigger issue to us is, is it jobs at any cost.”

He also said it is valid to challenge the environmental assessment legally.

“I don’t want to be trite but the law is the law. There are provisions in the law to take these issues on...to make sure that respective agencies are following the letter of the law.”

He also suggested environmental assessments simply provide “cover” for infrastructure which is “essentially a lot of environmentally-destructive projects.”

Ward Five city councillor Percy Hatfield, who sits on Windsor-Essex County Environment Committee, says he has “great respect” for the Sierra Club.

But he said he was “puzzled” as to why the club is intervening now.

“This has been underway for years and to my knowledge this is the first we have heard from them,” he said.


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