Coal-fired generation heats up in Princeton

Acid rain! Mercury poisoning! Global warming! In Princeton?

[Commentary:THIS JUST IN: The Regional Waste Manager and Senior Environmental Protection Officer in Pentiction have decided to extend the deadline for public comment to January 15, from November 5. Thanks to the many people who wrote letters-Arthur Caldicott]

Just as we get dramatic reports of the Arctic melting due to global warming, Compliance Energy is applying for an air permit for BC’s first coal-fired generation plant just outside of Princeton. The fuel will primarily be waste coal from a small mine the company operates near Coalmont, nearby.

The threshold for a reviewable project under the Environmental Assessment Office is 50 MW. This is a 49 MW plant. (More about EAs)

Coal plants spew mercury, carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases as well as particulate matter, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides. Given BC’s embarrassment of opportunities in renewables and energy efficiency, this proposal is an outrage. (More about Concerns)

There’s a lot of bumpf about “clean coal”, but the cost justification for the best-available-technologies to obtain the cleanest emissions from coal combustion, do not apply with a small plant like this one. This is a bare-bones operation – some of those cleanup technologies cost more than this plant will.

All British Columbians have an interest in this. This is the thin edge of the wedge. Behind this project are much larger coal-fired plants in the minds of Hillsborough Resources, Elk Valley Coal Corp (TeckCominco – the largest single corporate donor to the BC Liberals – and Fording), and others.

Any person who may be adversely affected (and that’s everyone) is encouraged to send written comments by January 15 to the applicant (Rod Shier, Chief Financial Officer, Compliance Energy Corporation, Suite 584-885 Dunsmuir Street, Vancouver, B.C. V6C 1N5, tel 604-689-0489 local 222, fax 604-681-5910), and copy to the Regional Waste Manager at 102 Industrial Place, Penticton, B.C. V2A 7C8, tel 250-490-8200, fax 250-490-2231. (Posting notice)

The air permit application should be denied, and this project should undergo a full environmental assessment.


No Customer

It is worth noting that Compliance doesn’t have a customer yet, but an air permit would bring the project that much closer to getting one.

Who might that customer be, should the company get that far? BC Hydro is one possibility. It announced recently that it will be seeking 1000 MW in each of 2005 and 2006 from independent power producers. Or perhaps the Weyerhaeuser lumber mill in Princeton. Weyerhaeuser has already implemented a wood waste burning power generation plant in Kamloops with funding and a deal from BC Hydro. The Compliance project would be even somewhat different, but would be the first recent deal in which an IPP sells power directly to a private customer. “Innovative”, the government might call it. “Unprincipled, polluting and irresponsible,” we would say. Or perhaps Princeton Light & Power, one of BC’s very few private retail power companies. At present, PLP gets its power under contract from FortisBC (previously Aquila Networks, Unicorp, West Kootenay Light & Power), and that relationship has had its bad moments. PLP would like to increase its supplier options.

More about EAs

With government regulations failing to protect our communities and environment, who will? Local people in the Princeton area are soon going to find out how much control they can exert over their (and our) futures

There is no technical or economic or markets reason for the project to be one megawatt less than the EA threshold. Setting it at 49 MW is a contrivance crassly designed to avoid an EA. And is it really only 49 MW?

In a July 2004 news release, the company announced it had acquired an option for the site “sufficient in size to develop a plus 50 MW wood waste /coal power plant.” The phrase, “plus 50 MW” sure doesn’t sound like “49 MW”. Compliance has designs on something larger, once the EA review is circumvented.

An EA would provide local people with a forum to review and submit evidence, and decide for themselves what the impacts and emissions of the proposed plant will be. Tell the company to apply for a review. Write or call the Premier and the Ministers concerned: Energy & Mines; Water, Land and Air Protection; Sustainable Resource Management. Insist on a full environmental assessment for this project.


Some aspects of coal-fired generation worth being concerned about:

Coal-fired generation emissions include mercury, an acutely potent toxin. It is not regulated in British Columbia. If our governments won’t lead in this respect, then we must do it for them.

Likewise with greenhouse gases. The provincial government has no greenhouse gas policies in place, or even in development, yet Canada is signatory to the Kyoto Accord. With Russia signing on recently, the Kyoto agreement gains more legitimacy. Coal combustion is the largest source of greenhouse gases in the world. We don’t need the electricity from the Compliance Energy project. There is no lights-going-out gun to our heads. Zero tolerance for unnecessary GHG emissions.

Coal-fired generation emits other toxic substances. A few are regulated, many are not. We don’t need the electricity or the toxic substances. (The Coal-Fired Power Boiler Emission Guidelines limits particulates, sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides.)

We said it earlier. We’ll say it again. The air permit application should be denied. This project should undergo a full environmental assessment.

A few details from the air permit posting:

Application No. PA-17687
Application for a Permit Under The Provisions of the Environmental Management Act

“Compliance Energy Corporation, Suite 584-885 Dunsmuir Street, Vancouver, B.C. V6C 1N5 have submitted this air permit application to the Regional Waste Manager. … to initiate the public notification process under the Environmental Management Act to obtain an air permit for a proposed thermal plant. The proposed thermal plant would have a nominal nameplate capacity rating of electricity of 49 MW or less. While the proposed project is designed using a blend of wood residue/coal as a fuel, the plant could use coal as its primary fuel depending on the availability of wood residue.”

“Any person who may be adversely affected … may, within 30 days after the last date of posting … send written comments to the agent for the applicant (F. Marlin Murphy, Consultant, c/o Compliance Energy Corporation, Suite 584-885 Dunsmuir Street, Vancouver, B.C. V6C 1N5), with a copy to the Regional Waste Manager at 102 Industrial
Place, Penticton, B.C. V2A 7C8”.


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