Pollution limits already raised for Kitimat smelter

Skeena MLA Robin Austin says Rio Tinto-Alcan expansion will increase sulphur dioxide even before other industry gets going

LNG tankers

With a 50-per-cent increase in sulphur dioxide emissions already approved for an expanded aluminum smelter in Kitimat, a study of further emission impacts is urgently needed, Skeena MLA Robin Austin says.

Austin was responding to the B.C. government’s announcement Thursday that it is doing an air quality study as the province prepares for liquefied natural gas expansion. He said the first indication of the study came in July when he questioned Rich Coleman, the minister for natural gas development, about the impacts of his aggressive plan for LNG exports to Asia.

A key part of the $650,000 study is the level of sulphur dioxide from proposed LNG production, as well as gas-fired power plants and a proposed oil port. The gas, a byproduct of fossil fuel use, converts to sulphuric acid and can affect the environment in higher concentrations.

Environment Minister Mary Polak said the studies will help guide the government in setting regulations for the companies.

“None of [the proposed projects] have their certificate yet, that’s later on in the process,” Polak said. “What is really important for us to do is to make sure we’re looking at not just at each individual project but understanding how they will fit into the puzzle with respect to the total emissions from the project when they’re all built out, potentially.”

The study is said to focus on sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide emissions from the facilities. The study will assess the impact of emissions, including their potential effects on water and soil as well as on vegetation and human health from direct exposure.

A request for proposals to conduct the study will be issued, and Polak said she expects the work on the study to conclude in March 2014.

Austin said LNG investors have indicated they will not make final decisions until the end of 2014 at the earliest, so there is time to complete the study.

“It’s part of the planning that needs to take place up here on a whole variety of things,” Austin said. “Nobody wants to see us end up like Fort McMurray, which got completely overrun with all kinds of social problems.”

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