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Switch to natural gas at Thunder Bay plant on hold, not cancelled: Bentley

Ontario Energy Minister Chris Bentley at a reception Oct 25, 2012 at the Toronto Board of Trade following an event to mark the completion of multimillion dollar rejuvenation project to Toronto's First Canadian Place office tower.

Moe Doiron/The Globe and Mail

Ontario's Liberal government flatly rejects Opposition claims that plans to convert a coal-fired generating station in Thunder Bay to natural gas have been cancelled.

Energy Minister Chris Bentley says converting the plant to natural gas has been "paused" because the Ontario Power Authority believes future power needs can be met without it.

Mr. Bentley says he wants to see a detailed plan from the electricity planning agency before deciding whether or not to proceed with the conversion.

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He says if someone tells him they can save up to $400-million they've got his attention, but he still wants to see proof.

Progressive Conservative energy critic Vic Fedeli says he's convinced the plant's conversion has been cancelled, and says the Liberals will use the savings to help pay for cancelling unpopular gas plants in Oakville and Mississauga.

The Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association says it can't understand why the OPA doesn't immediately provide Mr. Bentley with the data to support its proposal to scrap the conversion to natural gas and prove savings of $400 million.

It says the conversion must go ahead or northern Ontario could find itself short of power after winter storms or if water levels fall too low.

The Liberal government has promised to phase out all coal-fired generating stations by 2014.

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