Valley airshed attracts pollution, power plants
By Brian Lewis
Councillor sounds alarm about fragile environment
Producing electricity within the high-demand Lower Mainland makes sense economically but can carry a high price environmentally.
That's particularly pertinent in the Fraser Valley. By virtue of its location east and downwind of Metro Vancouver, this isn't your run-of-the-mill valley airshed.
"Its geography creates a perfect storm of conditions where pollutants from Greater Vancouver flow into it, they become condensed by its funnel shape and are then blocked from flowing out by the surrounding mountains," says Patricia Ross, the Abbotsford city councillor who now chairs the Fraser Valley Regional District.
"So the polluted air often just sits there."
It's especially noticeable during the hot summer months. A thick haze often develops throughout the Valley, and while this can produce spectacular sunsets, it also produces what many consider a significant threat to health.
Ross is a longtime advocate for protecting the Valley airshed. But she admitted yesterday that, after having led a successful campaign several years ago to block construction of a natural-gas-powered electricity-generation project in nearby Sumas, Wash., she mistakenly assumed the battle had been won.
"I thought that people in the Lower Mainland had finally understood our concerns about the Fraser Valley airshed and its unique characteristics — but now I see that some of them still don't get it, so the fight continues," she notes.
It also continues to revolve around our desire for a nearby, adequate supply of electricity.
The FVRD's immediate concern is Metro Vancouver's plans to solve its garbage-disposal problem — thanks to the approaching capacity closure of Cache Creek in the Interior — by building up to seven waste-to-energy electricity-generation plants in the Lower Mainland.
In fact, the developers of this technology have done an admirable job in convincing many within Metro Vancouver that these power plants don't pollute.
For their part, some of these politicians have been gullible enough to accept the industry at its word.
Now I see that four Metro Vancouver directors are in Sweden this week being wined and dined by the waste-to-energy industry to "learn" more about the technology.
Boy, I bet that'll be an unbiased learning experience.
Meanwhile, those trying to protect the Fraser Valley airshed now face a possible second assault.
It comes courtesy of B.C. Hydro's desire to spend a reported $900 million to refurbish the 50-year-old Burrard Thermal Generating Station in Port Moody.
Hydro is pushing to keep the natural-gas-fed backup power station running for many more years, rather than looking farther afield.
"Those who want to add these pollution points simply don't understand the Fraser Valley airshed issue," a frustrated Ross said. "Obviously, we've got more work to do in getting our message out."
If you have a story idea or noteworthy item about anything going on in the Fraser Valley, you can e-mail Brian at firstname.lastname@example.org
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