Before he became mayor, Gary Goobie collected more than 5,000 signatures on a petition calling on the government to do something about the pollution from the plant.
In 2007, the province developed an energy plan, but some policy actions — such as installing scrubbers and precipitators at Holyrood — are contingent on whether or not the Lower Churchill hydro project proceeds.
That project would reduce or eliminate dependency on Holyrood, but considering it’s still on hold, Goobie says the province should move ahead with its alternate plan.
In its energy plan, the province acknowledged the Holyrood station presented “the biggest challenges for the island system in the near term.”
The cost of operating the facility has increased with world oil prices, and the report said because the facility produces significant amounts of polluting emissions, including sulphur dioxide, it creates a negative impact on the environment.
The document noted that the generating station had been ranked the 42nd heaviest polluter in Canada.
The province said it would address these concerns by either “replacing Holyrood generation with electricity from the Lower Churchill through a transmission link to the island,” or by installing scrubbers and precipitators at the plant, while maximizing the use of wind, small hydro and energy efficiency programs to reduce reliance on Holyrood.
The government estimated in 2007 that the earliest date for full commercial delivery of Lower Churchill power would be 2015, and the earliest date for the scrubber and precipitator installation option would be 2013, but both options would require earlier commitments of funding.
The document referenced a 2009 timeframe for making this decision.
Goobie said, “It’s now 2010, and we’re coming back saying, ‘You made a commitment in the energy plan that if a decision on the Lower Churchill was not made by 2009, that you would install the scrubbers and precipitators.’ That’s the reason why now we’re bringing this back to the front burner because there has been a lapsed time period and a commitment needs to be made. The deadline is passed, so now what are they going to do?”
Coun. Gus Hawco, who heads the town’s waste management and environmental care committees, will make a motion on the issue at Tuesday night’s council meeting. Goobie expects it to be unanimously approved.
“We commend Hydro for reducing the sulphur in the fuel, which they have done on a couple of occasions over the years, which openly reduced the sulphur dioxide and the particulate emissions, but it still remains a major polluter.” - Gary Goobie
The town will then write to Premier Danny Williams and Nalcor Energy — of which Newfoundland Hydro is a subsidiary company — as well as Environment Minister Charlene Johnson, Conception Bay South MHA Terry French and Harbour Main MHA Tom Hedderson.
“We commend Hydro for reducing the sulphur in the fuel, which they have done on a couple of occasions over the years, which openly reduced the sulphur dioxide and the particulate emissions, but it still remains a major polluter,” Goobie said.
He said residents were willing to give the province some time because, obviously, it wouldn’t want to spend $300 million or more and then close the Holyrood plant. But now, with development of the Lower Churchill possibly being many years away, Goobie said, “We feel that the government should proceed and install the scrubbers and precipitators as soon as they possibly can.”
Dawn Dalley, communications manager with Nalcor, said Friday that the province, through Nalcor and Hydro, is still keeping both options open — either replacing Holyrood power generation with electricity from the Lower Churchill, or installing the scrubbers and precipitators.
“The proposed transmission link would displace existing fossil fuel generation at the Holyrood generating station with electricity from the Lower Churchill, providing a solution to the air quality issues associated with that facility’s emissions,” Dalley said.
Meanwhile, she said Hydro will continue to operate the plant in a manner that reduces the environmental impacts.
Over the past three to five years, Dalley said, Hydro has taken numerous steps to reduce emissions, including switching to cleaner fuel, which reduced some emissions by 50 per cent in 2006 and a further 30 per cent in 2009.
“We have sanctioned two wind projects on the island, which are reducing emissions from the Holyrood plant by almost 15 per cent,” Dalley added.
Energy efficiency programs have also been implemented to encourage people who are consuming electricity on the island to conserve and cut back, she said, and “we are continuing to achieve operational efficiencies at the Holyrood plant.”