Groups to challenge environmental appeals decision in BC Supreme Court over Kitimat emissions

A group will challenge a decision not to grant them ability to appeal Rio Tinto Alcan's environmental permit to the BC Supreme Court.

A group of organizations and individuals who oppose an environmental permit for the Rio Tinto Alcan smelter in Kitimat are going to the BC Supreme Court to challenge an Environmental Appeal Board (EAB) ruling against them.

Seven appellants, including Terrace-based organizations Skeena Wild Conservation Trust and Lakelse Watershed Stewards Society and five individuals from here to even Victoria, had sought to appeal the environmental permit which gives RTA the ability to emit an increased amount of sulphur dioxide (SO2) once their modernized smelter is built.

It is the single area of emissions the company believes will see an increase, while other emissions from particulates to greenhouse gases will drop.

Five of the appellants lost to the EAB while two Kitimat residents were permitted to continued with the process.

“It is unfortunate that RTA and the EAB aren’t taking our concerns seriously,” said Skeena Wild Executive Director Greg Knox in a press release. “They have left us no option but to take them to court.”

Kitimat-residents Emily Toews and Elisabeth Stannus meanwhile argued successfully to the EAB that they would be impacted by the increase in emissions by the smelter once fully modernized.

Alan Andison, chair for the Environmental Appeal Board, wrote in his decision that the two have successfully proved they are “persons aggrieved,”  or person who would be impacted by the emissions.

For others though, such as Terrace’s Charles Claus, a local food grower, the EAB felt that the impacts to him were “speculative.”

RTA spokesperson Colleen Nyce had said in past reports to the Sentinel that there is room for SO2 scrubbers in the design of the smelter, however the scrubbers would use large quantities of salt water and she said the company felt it was preferable to release the SO2 into the air rather than into the ocean.

The SO2 is increasing as a result of increased aluminum output, the company has also said.