By Jeremy Deutsch, Kamloops This Week, January 09, 2010
An air-discharge permit granted to a company interested in setting up a gasification plant that will burn creosote rail ties in the city has by far the strictest emissions standards of any permit within Kamloops, according to Ministry of Environment officials.
Despite some public and unanimous city council opposition, the ministry has given its blessing for the Aboriginal Cogeneration Corporation (ACC) to build two single-megawatt gasification generators on Mission Flats Road.
But Jason Bourgeois, the MOE’s environmental management section head, said the ministry has put strict guidelines in place to ensure the plant is no threat to human health or the environment.
Specifically, the ACC is looking to grind up millions of creosote rail ties and, through a complex gasification process, turn them into electricity that will then be sold.
The company has a 10-year contract with Canadian Pacific Railway to recycle up to four million ties.
Under the permit, the ACC will be required to have continuous emission monitors and provide data in a monthly report to the MOE.
Once the plant starts with gasification, the ACC must bring in a third-party independent fact-tester to test for a whole range of contaminants. And, as an extra precaution, it will need to repeat that testing every three months.
Bourgeois noted there is flexibility built into the permit to allow the MOE to change any of the requirements if it feels the environment is at risk.
The company will only be allowed to burn clean wood or CP rail ties treated with creosote.
Bourgeois said that, after reviewing all the data and conducting its own tests, the MOE is confidant creosote burning won’t cause any problems.
“We’re quite comfortable that creosote is a safe fuel to be used in the system,” he said.
But the safeguards aren’t enough for one city councillor.
Coun. Denis Walsh said he was surprised the MOE approved the application.
“I think it’s outrageous that Kamloops is being used as a testing ground for an unproven technology,” he told KTW, questioning why the Interior Health Authority would give the project its blessing and whether it was worth the potential risk for the creation of a “small number of jobs.”
It’s expected the plant will employ roughly 25 First Nations people.
Walsh said he would like to see the decision appealed, but isn’t sure if the city can, or should, be the lead, noting the potential expense involved.
He’s also upset the ministry went against city council’s recommendations.
“As a city, we should be master of our own destiny and dictate what’s acceptable in our community and what isn’t,” Walsh said.
But Burgeois countered, suggesting the decision was the ministry’s to make based on objective and unbiased evidence.