Atlantic Power Preferred Equity Ltd. has received an amended permit to burn rail ties at its biomass fuelled energy plant in Williams Lake.
The amended permit allows for the plant’s biomass fuel to contain up to 50 per cent combined rail ties and cleaned demolition debris.
There is a 30-day period for the public to appeal.
Responding to the Tribune’s request for an interview the ministry said in an e-mailed response it is obligated to consider all permit amendment applications submitted, and decisions are made in accordance with the Environmental Management Act.
“Permit amendments are only issued after a comprehensive technical analysis of any potential harm that the proposed emission may cause to human health and the environment,” the e-mail stated. “The independent statutory decision maker issued a draft permit document and the supporting draft ministry assessment report with a 30-day period for public feedback.”
Based on the feedback received throughout the application process, including public consultation and the technical merits of the application, the decision was made to approve the amendment.
This authorization gives Atlantic Power the ability to use in their fuel supply a combined rail tie material and clean construction and demolition debris, as long as it does not exceed 50 per cent of the total fuel supply calculated on an annual basis.
Further detail on the process for applying for and obtaining a permit is available at this link, including guidance documents outlining the processes:http://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/environment/waste-management/waste-discharge-authorization/permit-or-approval-application-process/application-forms-and-guidance.
Ever since the company made its intentions known that it wanted to burn shredded rail ties, there has been lots of opposition from residents in Williams Lake.
Concerns range from health because of emissions, rail tie storage, ash disposal and its storage. There has also been concern raised about the amount of potable water the plant uses, which the city’s chief financial officer confirmed last week was 206,820,868 gallons in 2015, which works out to 508,098 gallons a day.
When contacted by the Tribune, Mayor Walt Cobb said he had not heard the permit was approved, but said it was news city council had been waiting to hear the results from.
“If they’ve met the standards that’s a good thing,” Cobb said. “We will now wait for the appeal process to go through to see if there are any other concerns.”
Speaking from California Thursday, Atlantic Power’s environmental, health and safety director Terry Shannon said the company hopes the decision doesn’t get appealed.
“But obviously the public and other entities have the right to appeal so it’s anybody’s guess,” he said.
The new permit allows for the storage on site of 3,000 tons of shredded rail tie material in an enclosed bin and up to 22,000 tons of whole railroad ties at one time.
“There are new limits of various kinds, and new monitoring requirements and a variety of other changes in the permit that have occurred during the course of the last year,” Shannon said. “They reflect the ministry’s desire to ensure we can burn the ties without any impact.”
Atlantic will have to install new equipment in the stack to monitor sulphur and hydrogen chloride (HCL) emissions as well as for temperature, he said.
Shannon could not pinpoint a timeline for when the company would begin utilizing rail ties.
“We are still talking to BC Hydro about extending our contract and talking to CN Rail about securing the ties and those efforts have not been completed,” he said. “We would then have to buy the equipment and install it.”
A copy of the permit is available at the Williams Lake Library or at http://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/environment/air-land-water/site-permitting-and-compliance/atlantic-power/ministry_draft_permit.pdf — the authorization number is 8808.