Alberta must hold public hearing before approving new coal-fired power plant

March 24, 2011

CALGARY, AB —As the world grapples with the challenge of climate change, the Alberta government is poised to grant approval to a new coal-fired power plant without even holding a public hearing.

The proposed power plant would be built 20 kilometres north of Grande Cache, Alberta, on the site of an existing 150 megawatt facility. The new power plant, a project of Maxim Power Corporation, would produce 500 megawatts of power and emit over 3 million tonnes of greenhouse gas pollution each year for its 45-year lifespan, equivalent to adding 590,000 vehicles to the road.

On March 4, the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) gave Albertans 20 days' notice to learn about this proposed project and file objections.

The Pembina Institute is objecting to the proposed new coal plant because of its significant greenhouse gas and air pollution. In its submission, the Pembina Institute urges the AUC to hold a public hearing to consider the environmental consequences of this project.

"Over 80% of the power we currently use in Alberta comes from burning coal, making Alberta's power the dirtiest in Canada," said Pembina Institute spokesperson Chris Severson-Baker. "It is not in the public interest to approve any new coal plants when wind power, combined with natural gas-fired power plants, can easily meet Alberta's demand for power while producing far less greenhouse gas and air pollution."

The burning of coal represents the largest source of greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution in Alberta, and Alberta currently has the most GHG-intensive power generation system in Canada.

The proposed coal plant would also discharge mercury, along with large volumes of pollution responsible for smog and acid rain, into the air, affecting a large area of the province.

A decade ago, after extensive public hearings, two other coal-fired power plants in Alberta (Genesee 3 in 2001 and Keephills 3 in 2002), were approved by the Alberta Utilities Commission. The commission, then the Energy and Utilities Board, imposed conditions requiring the plants to perform "as good as gas" by offsetting approximately half of their total GHG emissions, so that the net emissions from the facilities would match those of a more efficient natural gas combined cycle plant.

In 2008, the Alberta Government released its Climate Change Strategy, which includes a 2020 goal to stabilize GHG emissions and begin making absolute emission reductions.

"Increasing air pollution makes it harder for Alberta to achieve its goal of reducing GHG pollution and will make it necessary to shift the burden of deeper reductions onto other companies and the public," said Severson-Baker. "It's essential that the Alberta Utilities Commission hold an open public hearing before making a decision that could move Alberta in entirely the wrong direction on global warming and air pollution."

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Download Pembina's letter of objection to the Maxim proposal

Download the Alberta Utilities Commission's Notice of Application for the Maxim proposal

Contact:

Chris Severson-Baker
Managing Director, Pembina Institute
Cell: 403-899-7423

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