Northeast Calgary residents will be exposed to more air pollution than necessary from a new power plant that won’t have the best emission-control technology, say health officials and environmentalists.
The 105-megawatt natural gas-fired plant is a joint project by PanCanadian Petroleum Limited and Canadian Occidental Petroleum. It will emit six times the amount of smog-causing nitrogen oxide than a bigger U.S.-made power plant to be built next door.
Calpine Corporation of California has proposed building the larger gas-fired plant, generating 250 megawatts of electricity. The company is expecting provincial regulatory approval for its project this month.
PanCanadian and Canadian Oxy will not install the state-of-the-art emission-cleanup technology that will be used in Calpine’s power plant, said Chris Severson-Baker of the Pembina Institute, an Alberta-based environmental research and watchdog organization.
The Calgary companies’ technology “is not appropriate when you consider that there are alternatives,” Severson-Baker said. “They’re meeting the minimum standards of the day.”
But Alan Boras, a spokesman for PanCanadian, said the joint power plant complies fully with “all utility, regulatory, energy and environmental regulations.”
Local health officials recommended to Alberta Environment that the PanCanadian/ Canadian Oxy plant should have the best available emission-cleanup technology like the U.S. company’s facility, said John Pelton, director of environmental health for the Calgary Regional Health Authority.
“But we are not the approving agency,” he noted.
Alberta Environment and the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board have both approved the PanCanadian/Canadian Oxy plant.
Dave Morris, a spokesman for the Energy and Utilities Board, said the facility got the go-ahead because its design and technology met current Alberta Environment regulations.
But Pelton said that the regional health authority remains concerned about the plant’s emissions over its expected 25-year operating life. Health officials have asked Alberta Environment to attach conditions to the facility’s operating licence.
Plant operators must do a study on the existing air quality in the area, followed by three years of air monitoring after the facility begins operation. Severson-Baker said the PanCanadian/Canadian Oxy plant will generate 105 megawatts of electricity and emit 485 tonnes per year of nitrogen oxide in northeast Calgary.
In comparison, Calpine Corporation’s gas-fired plant will generate 250 megawatts — nearly two-and-a-half times as much power — yet emit only 80.3 tonnes per year of the pollutant. Calpine decided to put in emission-cleanup technology that surpasses Alberta’s regulatory standards, said company spokesperson Katherine Potter.
The Calgary facility will be the U.S. energy company’s first power-generating project in Canada, Potter said from San Jose, Calif.
“We felt strongly that we needed to meet the same environmental standards that we have here in the U.S.”
Calpine hopes to start construction of its plant next spring and be in operation within two years.
The California company’s plant will be just inside the northeast Calgary city limits, while the adjacent PanCanadian/Canadian Oxy plant will be in Balzac, just outside city limits.
PanCanadian and Canadian Oxy “are not thinking 25 years down the road,” Severson-Baker complained. The growing city will completely envelop both plants within that time, bringing new sources of nitrogen oxide and other air pollutants, he said.
But Boras said that PanCanadian’s air quality projections show the combined emissions from both power plants will have only an incidental effect on air quality in northeast Calgary.
The two power plant projects also are different, Boras said.
PanCanadian and Canadian Oxy bid, under a special provincial program, to get their facility up and running by Dec. 15, 2001. The program offered subsidies to companies that could build more power capacity quickly, to meet fast-growing electricity demands in southern Alberta.
Severson-Baker, however, said regulators still should have done a full environmental and cost-benefit analysis of the plant.
The Pembina Institute filed an objection to the facility with the Energy and Utilities Board and asked for a public hearing, but the request was turned down.