Residents call for cleaner, greener Holyrood power station

Ashley Fitzpatrick
Published on February 24, 2012

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.

Complaints about the Holyrood power station have played a part in provincial power supply planning. — Telegram file photo