Shareholder profits at the expense of local business and environmental/health issues have resulted in a number of contradictions as follows:
1.) Atlantic Power Corporation (APC) says it is uneconomical to use roadside logging debris while BC Hydro says it is economical if two factors are considered.
2.) APC says it will create two to three additional jobs if rail ties are used while a local contractor says 50 to 60 permanent jobs and 10 to 15 induced jobs will be created with using road side logging debris (RLD) if BC Hydro pays a fair price to APC for the power produced from the more expensive RLD.
3.) APC says rail ties are needed to keep operating when the hog fuel is reduced because of beetles.
A company will start two new power plants this year using hog fuel and residual fibre in modern facilities in Merritt and Fort St. James.
An investment of $235 million for two 40 MW power plants will employ 80 people each compared to 32 at APC. There is no mention of needing rail ties to be economical.
4.) APC says not to worry about your health with the burning of rail ties because it meets the government standards.
Other references state there is no safe level of dioxins and there are no guidelines or standards set for some noxious substances produced by the burning of rail ties.
If you would like to get more details on these and other questions come to the public meeting on April 14 at the Gibraltar Room from 7 to 8.30 p.m.
The ministry of environment needs to use the APC request for increasing the amount of rail ties in the Williams Lake air shed as an opportunity to come up with firm guidelines for a fair amount of rail ties (or any other hazardous product) that can be dealt with in any community.
I have used what I consider a reasonable calculation of the rail ties replaced in our region each year.
For example, a generous estimate of the length of rail lines in the Williams lake TSA is 200 miles, with a rail tie every 19.5 inches and a replacement rate of three per cent per year.
I got 20,000 ties as our commitment each year. The millions of ties proposed by APC in their application is an unrealistic burden for this or any other community.
According to an article in Progressive Railroading a number of options should be considered for dealing with used rail ties, including the following: proper sorting and reuse of ties when possible, for rejected ties, use of portable incinerators along rail lines, burial in approved sites and burning in approved power plants are all viable options.
Rail ties are often used in preference to local residual fibre because rail ties are delivered free and a tipping fee is involved.
According to Progressive Railroading there is no such a thing as free rail shipping as it competes with and raises the costs of other products. The free shipping and tipping fees is a rail companies way of passing on the responsibility of dealing with used rail ties.
Jim Hilton is a professional agrologist and forester who has lived and worked in the Cariboo Chilcotin for the past 40 years. Now retired, Hilton still volunteers his skills with local community forests organizations.