Hillsborough and AES Wapiti Coal-Fired Project at a standstill

On February 13th, British Columbia?s Lieutenant-Governor Iona Campagnolo gave a throne speech which made it clear to Hillsborough and AES that their plans to proceed with the AESWapiti coal-fired project between Tumbler and Dawson Creek will be at a standstill. Campagnolo stated that effective immediately, B.C. will become the first jurisdiction in North America to require 100 percent carbon sequestration for any coal-fired project. Tom Kunde, who is the North America West business director of AES, stated that plans are at a full stop.

On March 29th, 2006 Hillsborough announced their proposal to develop AESWapiti, their energy generation project located in northeast British Columbia. The energy generation project would include a 165 MW thermal electric power plant and a 35 kilometre, 230 kV transmission line. The contemplated project life was set for approximately 40 years. The Wapiti coal mine operated by Hillsborough, would supply fuel for the plant.

Soon after the company?s announcement, residents began voicing their opinions. While not completely against the AESWapiti Project, people requested more information on the emissions and the effect on the community.

On January 25th, there was a coal-fired power forum at the Community Centre where members of Pembina Institute, Wildsight, and BCSEA presented the three options of coal-fired power and their effects. The AESWapiti Project would be using the Fluidized Bed Combustion (FBC) technology which works by suspending or fluidizing the fine coal powder in hot air and mixing it with limestone. Casey Brennan, who is the manager of Wildsight, mentioned that AESWapiti planned to eliminate 85 percent of the emissions of mercury, acid aerosols, ground level ozone, and particulate matters.

Town Councillor Larry White, who has a deep concern and commitment to environmental issues, stated in an article in Tumbler Ridge News that ?if plans for the coal-fired project were to continue, then why not use the best technology available?? After the coal-fired forum, others in the community seemed to be in agreement with White. While not completely opposed to the project, residents requested a public hearing from AESWapiti and Hillsborough in order for their concerns to be addressed.

At the February 13th Policies & Priorities Committee meeting in Tumbler Ridge, Mayor Mike Caisley recommended that staff contact AESWapiti to see if they plan to proceed with the plant. He also directed staff to request an update for information from AESWapiti.

On February 19th, Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Lonny Miller spoke with Ed Beswick, a Hillsborough employee who has been contracted to take the lead on the AESWapiti project. The message he received was that negotiations are still taking place with the province and BC Hydro. Beswick said that the throne speech was generating some discussion with the highest levels of members of AES, but that no decisions have been made one way or another to proceed with the project. Miller asked Beswick if a member of the AES Corporation would address Council as soon as they are able to provide a firm response regarding their plans. Beswick committed to making a visit once this happens.

Last week Tumbler Ridge News received information from David Slater, President and CEO of Hillsborough. His email stated that the project has not been cancelled but that ?it certainly is looking like it will be difficult to bring on.? Then Slater went on to say,? The reason is the recent move by the government to require 100% sequestration of the CO2 emissions. There is no such technology available, so clearly we can?t commit to delivering something in 2016 which may not be possible to achieve. So, no, this has nothing to do with environmental concerns, but rather to do with a government which changes the rules in mid-stride.?