On November 21, I wrote the following letter to Premier Gordon Campbell. It concerns two proposed coal fired electrical generation plant proposals under review for the Princeton area and in tumbler ridge. While there are several websites sponsoring mail-bot form letter protests, I would urge those who oppose these projects to personally write to the Premier and Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources, Richard Neufeld to voice your well reasoned opposition to these projects. Personally writted letters carry far more weight than form letter protests.
Dear Mr. Campbell:
Cc: David Chudnovsky, MLA
I understand that as a part of the BC Hydro 2006 Open Call for Power, Compliance Energy Corporation and AES Global Power Corporation have been awarded 30 year Independent Power Producer contracts to build and operate coal fired generation plants in the Similkameen Valley and at Tumbler Ridge. While BC Hydro is to be commended, for the first time, for also awarding IPP contracts to three wind generators in this same call for power, including coal in the power mix for the first time is breaking ground that is best left unbroken. Even though BC has abundant coal reserves, coal has not to this point been a part of the energy generation mix in BC for good reason - of the alternatives available, coal has the most damaging environmental impact. I would urge you to rethink your support for these projects.
While proponents of these projects have described them as "clean coal" projects, in reality they are far from clean. While described as state of the art, in reality they are run of the mill. In fact, the proposed plants would generate 70 times the nitrogen oxide, 260 times the sulphur dioxide and 7 times more particulate matter than the Sumas II power plant in Washington State that your government successfully opposed. In addition to this the plant would emit mercury and over 1.8 million tonnes of greenhouse gasses every year.
I would remind you that two components to your environmental plan for British Columbia were to promote alternative energy sources and to implement a new climate change action plan. While BC needs additional generation capacity, there are far better alternatives available than coal. Additional proposed wind projects on Vancouver Island, the North Coast, Peace River and offshore in Hecate Straight and a variety of small hydro, waste heat and biomass projects stand ready to take up the slack. I can't imagine a climate change plan calling for an increase in greenhouse gasses. The proposed coal projects are completely incompatible with your stated environmental platform.
Climate change is not just some future risk. British Columbia is already starting to face social, economic and environmental shifts as a result of global warming. In the interior, and area of forest the size of New Brunswick has been devastated by the mountain pine beetle - a natural pest that has been traditionally controlled by severe winters. This year, the south coast has been hit by "once in a life time" storms first in February and then again in November. Salmon stocks on the Fraser River system are threatened by lower summer time water levels, rising water temperatures and higher spring and fall surges which scour and destroy spawning habitat. I have children ages 5 and 7. We hiked up to Garabaldi lake this fall and I was shocked to see the extent to which the glacier has retreated since I last was there only 10 years ago. At this rate, the 2010 winter Olympics may just be the last hurrah for Whistler. Let's not leave a wasted environment as a legacy for our children.
I would also call your attention to two recent surveys, one national, and the other in British Columbia both indicating that over 70% of the population is very concerned about global warming. While an election has not yet been fought over climate change policy, public sentiment is clearly trending in this direction. If voter initiative were an option in this province, these projects would be overwhelmingly killed. That should be your moral compass. One only need look south of the border at the US mid-term elections to see what happens when a government loses the support of its citizens. While I have never voted NDP, if you insist on supporting the development of coal generation plants in BC I will hold my nose and do so in the next election. I represent a constituency you can't afford to lose: educated, urban, professional, fiscal conservative, socially liberal, environmentally progressive.
My MLA, NDP David Chudnovsky responded almost immediately saying he appreciated my letter and would forward it to NDP Environmnet Critic, Shane Simpson and NDP Energy Critic John Horgan. Today I got a response from the Premier's Office.
Thank you for your email regarding our energy policy.
I appreciate having the opportunity to review your comments and have forwarded a copy of your email to my colleague, the Honourable Richard Neufeld, Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources, for his information. I assure you that the Minister will give your input every consideration.
It was good of you to write me on this matter and I wish you all the best over the holiday season.
The response is boilerplate, but I didn't expect a personal visit from the Premier or a "Eureka" moment where the government would reverse its direction based on my letter. But if they consider it representative of a significant constituency, and one that is important to them, it may be acted on.