by Joe Anglin
In 2001 EPCOR Generating Inc (now called Capital Power Management Inc), along with its partner TransAlta Corporation applied to the Energy Utilities Board (EUB) for approval to construct and operate a 490-megawatt (MW) coal-fired power plant at Genesee, some 80 km west of Edmonton.
Touted as the cleanest-ever coal-fired generator, EPCOR obtained approval to construct the plant, known as Genesee #3, with the promise that they could operate the plant at greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) levels equivalent to that of a natural gas combined cycle plant.
During the approval process EPCOR and TransAlta both boasted that Genesee #3 would be the province's first coal-fired generator to incorporate advanced environmental technologies, which included a sulphur emissions scrubber, high-efficiency burners and a bag filter system. All of which was designed to significantly reduce the lethality of SO2 and NOx emissions and other particulate matter.
The Alberta Energy Utilities Board bought EPCOR and TransAlta’s promise, and based its decision to approve the plant by stating, “The Board would not only direct EPCOR to fulfill its voluntary commitment of offsetting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, such that they are equivalent to those from a natural gas combined cycle plant. The Board also directs those offsets to be updated to correspond to any future changes in emission standards for coal-fired power plants or a corresponding gas-fired power plant.”
Now just barely five-years into operation, Capital Power Management Inc is applying to the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) to be exempted from any requirement that they must meet natural gas plant GHG emissions standards. Claiming that other coal generating plants are not held to this GHG emission standard, they say this GHG requirement places them at a competitive disadvantage. As a result, Capital Power and its partner TransAlta are asking the board’s permission to pollute as much as the other coal generators that are held to a lesser standard.
By just asking for this exemption Capital Power and TransAlta are displaying little shame and/or integrity. They received approval to build the plant under the promises and assurances that they could achieve a higher standard of GHG emissions. Touting themselves as the cleanest-ever, the insinuation being no other coal plant could meet these GHG emission standards, they obtained approval. Now that the plant is built, Capital Power and TransAlta are belly-aching and acting surprised at the discovery that other coal plants are not held to the same GHG emission standard.
What will the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) do? Will they hold Capital Power and TransAlta accountable? If the AUC grants the exemption to allow Genesee #3 to pollute more, contrary to the very reason it was approved, in effect the AUC will be confirming what some in the public allege. Approvals can be obtained by telling the board what it wants to hear, absent of accountability.