Residents call for cleaner, greener Holyrood power station

Ashley Fitzpatrick
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Jack Swinimer has been a Holyrood resident for 10 years. On Thursday, he was before the Public Utilities Board (PUB) promoting change at the town generating station, as promised by the provincial government in 2007.

Swinimer took issue with emissions from the station’s stacks — saying they were responsible for health problems in the community, including lung diseases and cancers.

There is no proof of any link between the emissions and health problems experienced by individuals within the community. However, Swinimer’s personal opinions were clear.

“You just can’t put the amount of toxins in the air that emanate from that plant and not have health problems,” he told reporters.

Under the Muskrat Falls project plan, Holyrood will be taken out as a generating facility in 2021.

‘Without environmental controls’

The 40-year-old thermal power station has been described as “an oil-fired facility without environmental controls,” by Nalcor Energy vice-president Gilbert Bennett.

New environmental controls are to be added to the 500 MW plant — without approval of the proposed $6.2-billion Muskrat Falls plan.

There will be electrostatic precipitators and scrubbers, for cutting sulphur dioxide emissions and low nitrogen oxide burners, for nitrogen oxide emissions.

The total cost is estimated at $600 million, with an in-service date of 2015.

“In the event that Muskrat is not sanctioned, the province has indicated that we are to proceed with that immediately,” Bennett has told the PUB.

In the province’s 2007 Energy Plan, there was a directive regarding Holyrood, promising to “address environmental concerns” in this way,

Meeting the standards

There is no requirement under existing legislation to reduce emissions from the Bunker C-burning plant.

Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro has taken measures to reduce the sulphur dioxide emissions in particular over the past decade, bringing them in line with standards.

In March 2006, Hydro switched from 2 per cent to more expensive 1 per cent sulphur-content fuel, reducing sulphur dioxide. In March 2009, Hydro switched from 1 per cent to 0.7 per cent sulphur-content fuel, further reducing emissions.

These reductions are not enough for town residents like Swinimer.

“We worked long and hard to get the provincial government in the 2007 energy report to say that you’ve suffered enough, residents of Holyrood and Conception Bay, we’re going to fix this for you,” he told reporters following his presentation.

He said like-minded residents have been awaiting action ever since.

Carbon dioxide and green power

The measures planned for emissions abatement will not address greenhouse gas emissions.

According to Nalcor, “the possibility exists” there will be federal directives or additional taxation related to carbon dioxide coming from Holyrood in future.

The facility produces between 800,000 and 1.2 million tons of carbon dioxide annually.

Bennett said the federal government has already sent “fairly clear messages” a change is coming, having introduced new regulation for coal fired generating facilities. The regulations are not finalized, but have been gazetted and opened to comment.

Affordable alternatives

Representatives with Manitoba Hydro International (MHI) — tapped to assist the PUB with reviewing the Muskrat Falls proposal — have suggested the province might request an exemption from Ottawa in order to keep operating the plant, should the “fairly clear messages” cited by Bennett lead to legislation.

On Holyrood ending generation in 2021, retired city manager and bureaucrat Ron Penney noted, being so close to St. John’s, it provides the metro region “with considerable energy security.”

He also suggested the plan to spend $600 million on environmental controls might be unneccessary “in view of the higher quality fuel now being used.”

Fred Winsor is conservation chairman with the Atlantic Canada chapter of Sierra Club Canada and supports the plan to clean emissions at Holyrood. However, he told the PUB, his group will still not support the Muskrat Falls plan.

“The Sierra Club itself has been opposed to large hydro developments for, I would say it’s about 75 years now,” he told the board.

For Swiminer, while an isolated island option does not preclude changes at Holyrood, he still supports Muskrat Falls development.

“Wind power isn’t the answer. And if you suggest natural gas is, it may be down the road, but it’s not here now,” he said.


This is a corrected version.

Organizations: Public Utilities Board, Nalcor Energy, Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro Manitoba Hydro International Sierra Club

Geographic location: Holyrood, Conception Bay, Atlantic Canada

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Recent comments

  • John Smith
    February 24, 2012 - 15:10 are a fool. Our utility prices have increased by 60 (SIXTY) percent since 1998. Today the price of a barrel of oil is heading towards 110 dollars! When they figure in the cost adjusment formula this august we will have to pay for this oil. There is not one shred of evidence saying that our bills will double, that is an outright lie, and cannot be substantiated in any way. The Minister of natural resources has come out publicly to say that the average consumer will pay an extra 15 dollars a month, on a 250 dollar monthly light how is that double...double would be 500 dollars a month. Which is what we will be paying if we stay tied to oil. Get your facts right my friend, as you are making a fool of yourself.

    • Are you the character
      February 25, 2012 - 10:58

      John Smith: Are you the character from Corner Gas who screws everything up but calls everyone else a jackass? If government shared your attitude towards the general public, homelessness and food banks would be on the rise and all our businesses would be owned by the same few people. You would have us all paying higher electricity bills for you; supposing some of us had to grow vegetables on our lawns, move closer to work, and go back to the bartering system. Do you really enjoy being angry all the time? If so, then fill your boots because there’s a never ending supply of people out there who ask questions and/or happen to be smarter than yourself. I’d like to thank you actually because their comments appear to be a lot more interesting when compared to your reprehensible rubbish.

  • Tom
    February 24, 2012 - 11:00

    John Smith: Have you listened to or heard the costs you will pay as soon as they start to develop this project? Expect a 50% jump as soon as the contract is signed. And that is the base increase. To make this project work, we all have to pay upwards of double our current rate, just so we can let other provinces, and some US states get a 6.9 cent kWh. We are going to pay about .20 cents a kWh to build the thing, while the excess power is sold for about 1/3 of what we pay. No way should this project go forward until we are the ones who benefit with the cheaper rates. And Robert: I was talking about this particular person who is complaining about the plant and what it does. He moved there 20 years after it opened. The people that I have listened to complain the last few days about the plant are people who admit they moved into the area knowing what was there and long after the plant was built. Just stupid to move where you know you will have problems, but expect a major plant to blow hundreds of millions to make you happy. No way. Just move or wait for it to shut down.

    • Fred Penner
      February 24, 2012 - 17:04

      Please see the link below for some non-fiction:

  • john Smith
    February 24, 2012 - 09:38

    Louie, that's a nice dream...however, the people we pay to forecast future energy needs tell us that by 2017 we will be in trouble, we will not have enough to meet our needs. It's a long long time between 2017, and 2041.

  • Harvey
    February 24, 2012 - 08:53

    Why is it that we have so many people not wanting to save the earth from destruction by pollution? Our own elected politicians stand strong against the development of clean air energy while climatic change is so obviously happening to our planet. The federal gov't is hell-bent on developing the worst crude the earth has to offer...i.e. the Tar Sands...and very little if anything comes from them. We hear politicians talk about leaving a debt for our children and grand-children...and rightly so...but if we don't do the right things to protect our planet before it is destroyed, what difference does going in debt make?

  • Louie
    February 24, 2012 - 08:21

    If we think we can operate the electric grid system without Holyrood when a transmission connection is made with Labrador by all means shut it down. We can recall the power which is presently being wheeled through Quebec and sold by Emera into New England so that it can be shut down. The line from Labrador needs to be adequate to transport the free power from Upper Churchill in 2041 when it becomes available. Lets forget about the idea of building a generating station at Muskrat because in order for it to compete with Quebec's Romaine River Power it will require massive injections of cash from the oil revenues and huge increases in consumer rates to subsidize it so that it can be sold on the Mainland and New England States. Lets get this right and and know we can finance and pay for whatever we do. If we do not get it right, the situatiion could become very GREEK indeed for Newfoundland and Labrador and its taxpayers.

  • John Smith
    February 24, 2012 - 07:01

    Well said Mr. Swiminer. The pollution is bad, but I want to shut it down because my bills have gone up by 60% since 1998, and will go up again this summer when we get the CAF added to our bills to pay for oil, which is now at a 9 month high. We will forever watch our bills rise if we stay tied to burning dirty oil.

  • Tom
    February 24, 2012 - 07:00

    Who in their right minds moves next to an environmental mess and then expects the mess to move? The plant opened in the 70’s, you knew it was there, why move there? You made your choice, live with it. No way should there be 600 million spent on this plant, until the hydro deal is approved or falls through. 600 million on something that may be closed in 9 years. No way.

    • Robert
      February 24, 2012 - 08:37

      Tom! It is my understanding that Holyrood was settled LONG LONG before the 70s. And I should remind you that much of the NE Avalon is east/downwind of the plant. I do agree that the 600 million could be much better a downpayment on the Muskrat Falls project.