Members of Pembina Institute, Wildsight, and BCSEA visit Tumbler Ridge

On January 25th, members of the Pembina Institute, Wildsight, and BC Sustainable Energy Association (BCSEA) were present to discuss the effects of the proposed coal-fired project between Tumbler Ridge and Dawson Creek. The purpose of the visit was to inform the community of the effects of emissions into the air. Councillors Brenda Holmlund, Larry White and Mayor Mike Caisley were present for the session.

The first presentation was by Matt Horne who is a member of the Pembina Institute. Horne stressed that the meeting was not against the AES Wapiti project for coal-fired power. Horne presented the three options of coal-fired power which are: Pulverized Coal Combustion (PCC), Fluidized Bed Combustion (FBC), and Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC).

The AES Wapiti project plans on using the FBC method. Horne pointed out that ten percent of the countries in the world are using the IGCC method.

The FBC technology works by suspending or fluidizing the fine coal powder in hot air and mixing it with limestone. There will be significantly higher emissions from using this technology method. Greenhouse gases will more than double at 120 percent in a one year span.

Casey Brennan who is the program manager at Wildsight, also gave a power point presentation on the health effects and community impacts of burning coal for energy. Brennan mentioned that Wildsight protects biodiversity and sustainable communities in Canada?s Columbia and Rocky Mountains. Currently, there are five chapters in British Columbia. Brennan pointed out that most jurisdictions are trying to move away from burning coal. The emissions from burning coal are responsible for a long list of toxins in any local environment. Some of the health impacts are due to the emissions of mercury, acid aerosols, ground level ozone, and particulate matter. Brennan mentioned that the AES Wapiti project plans to eliminate 85 percent of these emissions; however, technology exists to eliminate 95 to 99 percent. Some of the harmful effects of these emissions can be a great risk for pregnant women and children. There is the potential for brain damage, nervous system damage, impaired growth, learning and behavioral problems, and damaged kidneys. One of the effects on the environment can be acid rain which will damage lakes and forests.

Brennan also pointed out in his presentation that Ontario is trying to move away from coal-fired burning by the year 2010. An independent study from 2005 found emissions from all coal fired stations in Ontario were responsible for up to 668 premature deaths, 928 hospital admissions, and 1100 emergency room visits in Ontario per year. In other areas of the world, Germany has cut their coal usage in half since1990. The United Kingdom?s coal usage has dropped by 46 percent over the same period of time. Brennan encourages communities to engage outside the government process by working with all interests like the media, neighbors, and the industry.

Karen Campbell, who is also a member of the Pembina Institute, focused on four areas in her power point presentation. Campbell informed the group that BC has an estimated 23 billion tonnes of coal in the province. There is 23 million tonnes of coal mined each year. Campbell mentioned that the AES Wapiti project will affect our air quality.

Both BC and Canada?s emissions are above the 1990 levels by 30 percent. With regards to Global Warming, Campbell said that the earth?s surface temperature since the 1800?s has rapidly gone up. The Boreal forests will begin to disappear. Campbell mentioned that 53 percent of electrical needs can be met through renewables by the year 2050. Wind projects could power about 1.3 million homes.

The AES Wapiti project has gone through the pre-application stage. The company expects to start production in 2007 and operations three years later. Campbell informed the community that there is a provision to hold a hearing and that the community of Tumbler Ridge could contact our MLA. A flyer was available at the back of the room that had the contact information for The Hon. George Abbott, Minister of Health (www.georgeabbottmla.bc.ca) the Hon. Gordon Campbell,Premier (www.gordoncampbellmla.bc.ca) MLA Blair Lekstrom, (www.blairlekstrommla.bc.ca), The Hon. Richard Neufeld, Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources (www.richardneufeldmla.bc.ca) and The Hon. Barry Penner, Minister of Environment and Minister responsible for Water Stewardship and Sustainable Communities (www.barrypenner.com).

The community had a chance to voice their opinions and concerns at the end of the presentations.

Dr. Charles Helm commented that he was happy to see that the presentation was given by an independent group. He also commented that he believes the AES Wapiti to be good corporate citizens. Helm stressed the importance for people in Tumbler Ridge, especially the youth, to understand the project. Helm commented that he believes that the impact will affect Dawson Creek more than Tumbler Ridge since the winds blows the majority of the time in that direction. Casey followed up Helm?s comments by adding that the public has not yet been shown a draft for the energy plan by the government.

Some of the other concerns that the presenters clarified was the biomass and its effects on the environment. Horne said that only a bit of the biomass will emit greenhouse gas emissions. The Biomass will reduce the emissions by only 10 to 20 percent.

Another question was asked why AES Wapiti is not going with the IGCC technology rather than the FBC method. Campbell responded to say that the IGCC method is expensive so it is probably for financial reasons that the FBC method is the method that will be used if and when the project starts up. Campbell also stated that we already have a compromised air quality and that communities should ask for a better understanding of the impacts from the AES Wapiti project. When Campbell asked by show of hands if everyone present would support a public hearing, 90 percent of the 100 plus people attending the meeting raised their hand.

Councillor Larry White closed by commenting that the intent of the session was to initiate the debate for the project.

For more information on BCSEA (BC Sustainable Energy Association) visit their website @www.bcsea.org and for information on the AES Wapiti project, visit www.hillsboroughresources.com

There is also a wealth of information to be had on the web by typing in AES WAPITI in your search engine.