Armchair Mayor column, The Daily News, Jan. 16, 2010
The anti-cogen troops will rally in front of City Hall on Jan. 30, then march across the bridge to Terry Lake’s office.
Since neither the City nor the MLA has anything to do with the decision to grant a permit to Aboriginal Cogeneration Corp. to operate a plant that will gasify old railway ties, the choice of locations is curious.
I suppose the front steps of City Hall are a good place for a protest rally, and why not add an MLA’s office, but the only place environmentalists are going to find satisfaction is from the Environmental Appeal Board.
That board is an independent body that hears appeals on decisions made by government officials relating to our environment. Protest rallies make for a good show and are, no doubt, a good way to vent. Beyond that, their value is somewhat limited.
A protest of another kind, the one that came from City council, holds no authority either. Council voted this week to write to Lake and his fellow MLA Kevin Krueger, as well as MP Cathy McLeod, asking why a federal enviro report wasn’t done.
In addition, they want Krueger, Lake and McLeod to encourage the Ministry of Environment to hear the appeal planned by Save Kamloops.
It’s more window dressing. The federal environmental report wasn’t done because it wasn’t called for within the guidelines under which such reports are done.
And, Krueger, Lake and McLeod don’t call the shots on whether or not appeals are heard. They’re heard based on a bunch of rules that are already in place.
I doubt the rally will leave the public any more informed than it was, but if any of this makes even one person feel better, it’s fine with me. After all, we live in a democracy and free speech is something we feel strongly about.
Nevertheless, it helps to know how things actually work.
It goes something like this. Within 30 days of being informed of the permit decision, an “aggrieved party” can file an appeal under the Environmental Management Act, for a $25 fee.
Assuming an appeal is filed, Aboriginal Cogeneration would be notified. As long as the appellant qualifies, and there’s at least a shred of legitimacy to it (“I don’t like it” probably wouldn’t be a good enough reason), the appeal will be considered.
The appeal can be handled either through written submissions, or through a verbal-testimony process that’s said to be very similar to a courthouse trial. I’m guessing Save Kamloops will want the full-meal-deal open argument option, and I’m guessing the appeal board will grant that wish.
That means Save Kamloops, the MOE and ACC will present arguments and testimony on why the permit was granted, why it should be upheld, and why it should be overturned.
Lawyers don’t always get involved, but if the parties want to spend money on lawyers, they can. Witnesses can be cross-examined just like in court.
This is going to make for high drama. More importantly, it will provide a means for people to get answers to questions about this project that so far haven’t been met through the somewhat limited consultation process conducted by the MOE before the permit was granted, or via all the hyperbole flying around right now.
At the end of it all, the three-member appeal board can confirm the permit, overturn it, or ask that it be amended. The latter may be the most Save Kamloops can hope for, something that will tighten the screws a little more on ACC.
Those screws are already torqued pretty tight, according to Jason Bourgeois, the MOE guy who signed off on the permit. “It’s the strictest by far of the other permits we’ve done,” he told me this week.
On the fears being expressed about air quality, he said: “Emissions (from the ACC gasifier) are so incredibly low they will not be able to be measured within a very short distance from the stack. There’s very little there.”
But, of course, the appeal board could see things differently. In the meantime, appealing the permit at the least causes ACC some inconvenience and potentially quite a bit of money.
While ACC president Kim Sigurdson told me this week he’s not going to wait for the appeal before moving ahead, he also admitted, “It will cause huge problems for us. There’s a lot of lost time here.”
AROUND TOWN: Despite all the talk from City Hall that the law is the law and it can’t be changed for one Golden Retriever, word is that bylaws officers have been chastened and aren’t likely to be harassing Abbey for at least a while. . . . Torch Run route for Jan. 27 has been posted and it looks like it goes west down Valleyview Drive to Victoria Street, turns up First Avenue to Columbia and from there on McGill to the Tournament Capital Centre.