This community currently faces a number of issues.
Some, like crime and racism, have been around forever. Possible job losses and the burning of railway ties are relatively new. Even after hearing plenty from both sides of the debate I still don’t know if the tie burning and all that goes with it (storage, handling of ties, ash, whatever) is OK or will result in awful air pollution. I have a personal interest because myself and two other members of my family have respiratory problems.
We don’t need any more bad air.
But if Atlantic Power can handle the ties safely? That’s the question on many minds.
The BC Ministry of the Environment has the final say.
The ministry hasn’t, to my knowledge, made any attempt to get public opinion, nor to answer any questions from the community. Some wonder if the ministry has the staff and resources to do an in-depth study. The last independent air quality studies that I know of were done here in 2001 and 2006. Are they outdated?
MOE has monitoring stations around town that are regularly checked, but do they provide adequate information?
Is it too late for MOE to hold a public meeting to answer questions and get community input? Governments exist to serve the public, so this part of the process shouldn’t have been left to Atlantic Power or citizen’s groups. And while they’re at it, the province should direct the Ministry of Forests to hold at least one public meeting to explain why the wood waste left in the bush can’t be used for the economic, environmental and social benefit of this community.
Whatever the impediments, the ministry can fix them. If it’s a matter of money, the province can fix that too. It is my understanding that both city council and the CRD supported AP’s bid to burn the ties.
Nobody seems to know how much homework they did, if any, but maybe they could use their clout with the province to ensure this community has the best of both worlds by providing the power plant with this alternate fuel source.
Diana French is a freelance columnist for the Tribune. She is a former Tribune editor, retired teacher, historian, and book author.