Capital Power breaks a key promise to Albertans

CO2 emissions
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Edmonton – Environmental groups and landowners have joined forces to block Capital Power’s bid to remove a legal requirement that it offset 50 per cent of the greenhouse gas emissions that are released from the Genesee 3 coal power plant.

In 2001 the company (then EPCOR) had voluntarily committed to offset its emissions in response to public concern about the climate impact of burning coal to make power. The commitment was written right into the company’s approval by the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC, then named the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board) and was a factor in the Board’s 2002 decision to approve the plant.

If the utilities commission agrees to change the approval, Capital Power will only have to achieve a two per cent improvement in greenhouse gas performance, growing to a maximum of 12 per cent in six years, to meet the climate standards of Alberta’s Specified Gas Emitters Regulation. The original commitment of a 50 per cent offset would have reduced the coal plant’s net greenhouse gas pollution to the much lower levels of a natural gas combined cycle power plant.

“Capital Power made its 2001 commitment in response to public concern about the high environmental cost of burning coal to make electricity,” said Chris Severson-Baker, Policy Group Director of the Pembina Institute. “We are calling on the AUC to send a message that companies will not be allowed to renege on environmental commitments made at public hearings after projects are operating. Commitments made by companies to Albertans need to be fulfilled.”

Capital Power argues that its voluntary commitment puts the plant at a competitive disadvantage. However, Federal Environment Minister Jim Prentice recently announced that new coal plants (post 2015), and those reaching the end of their economic lives, will have to meet natural gas levels or close down.

“This action by Capital Power shows how weak Alberta’s climate change rules actually are,” noted Nashina Shariff, Associate Director of Toxics Watch Society. “And if the amendment is approved, it will once again confirm to the nation that Alberta is a laggard, not a leader, on climate policy.”

“If it agrees to make this change without holding a public hearing that re-examines all aspects of this coal plant impacts on Albertans, including the impact on human health, the AUC’s credibility will be damaged,” said Ruth Yanor, landowner. “Why would citizens participate in hearings in good faith if they knew that inconvenient approval conditions can simply be deleted from the government approval after the plant is operating?”
Read the submission to the Alberta Utilities Commission.

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