Making Coal an Election Issue

Coal-mining and coal-fired generation and coalbed methane development are intensifying at an alarming rate in BC. These are potentially hot provincial election issues.

Coal is the most noxious fossil fuel – a major contributor to global warming, environmental pollution, and health impacts world-wide. Most North American jurisdictions are moving away from it, or are cleaning it up. Not so in BC. The Liberal government is moving the coal agenda as rapidly as it dare, given electoral sensitivities.

What are the various political parties positions on three coal-related issues?

  • coal-fired electricity generation,
  • coalbed methane development, and
  • expanded coal mining (even if it’s for export, it’s going to be burned somewhere, releasing all that carbon into the atmosphere).

Everyone, urban and rural, should be making candidates take positions on these issues!

Why? Because just under the radar – and under the regulatory thresholds – coal-related energy and mining projects are being fast tracted in BC.

For example:

Hillsborough Resources, which started 2004 with just the Quinsam Mine in Campbell River, now has coal-mining interests in the East Kootenays (Bingay Creek, link to news release), eleven properties in northeast BC (link), and has even acquired a coal mine in Tennessee (link). The company also wants to explore for coalbed methane on its Vancouver Island coal lands (link), and build a coal-fired electricity generation plant at the Quinsam Mine (link). (www.hillsboroughresources.com)

Compliance Energy, with a small coal mine near Princeton, has also acquired coalbed methane rights in the Tulameen Coalfield ( link), and also wants to build a coal-fired generation plant at the old Similco Mine site near Princeton ( link). Compliance is applying for an air emissions permit for the project. (www.complianceenergy.com)

A campaign has begun to pressure government to force this project, which might be the first coal-fired generation plant in BC, to an Environmental Assessment – which the company is trying to duck by making the plant a nominal 49 MW, just under the reviewable projects threshold of 50 MW. Read Dogwood Initiative and the Sierra Club of BC’s letter to Sustainable Resources Minister George Abbot by ( link), and please use it as a template for one of your own.

Call for an environmental assessment, or just tell the government that you think coal-fired generation sucks and you don’t want it in BC. x0Ax0ANew and proposed coal mines in BC in 2004 include those of Western Canadian Coal Corp. ( link to Brule Mine proposal, link to Wolverine Mine proposal), Pine Valley Mining ( link to Willow Creek Mine proposal), and NEMI ( link to Trend Mine proposal) in the northeast. (www.westerncoal.com, www.pinevalleycoal.com and www.nemi-energy.com)

Fortune Minerals has an application into the BC Environmental Assessment Office ( link) for a new coal mine on Mt. Klappan, on the southwest edge of Spatsizi Plateau Wilderness Park, and at the headwaters of the Klappan, Spatsizi, Nass and Skeena Rivers. (www.fortuneminerals.com)

The Klappan Coalfield is ground zero for Shell Canada, which started an exploratory drilling and road-building project in the fall of 2004.

Other companies are out there as well, with less advanced projects. Forum Developments, in Merritt. Cline Mining, with interests in the East Kootenays and the northeast.

The biggest coal operator in BC, though, is Elk Valley Coal Corp, Teck Cominco, and Fording. Big contributors to the BC Liberals, the scale of coal mining of these companies in the East Kootenays is staggering. And they too, are interested in developing coalbed methane (Shell Canada is already doing exploratory drilling in Elk Valley Coal lands) and coal-fired generation.

Watch www.dogwoodinitiative.org and www.cbmwatch.ca regularly for regular updates on coal, coal-fired generation, and coalbed methane development in BC.

Remember: these are potentially big election issues. Put your candidates on the spot!

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