The recent visit of Leroy Reitsma, president of Pinnacle Pellet and the company’s Vice President of Operations, Scott Bax, to Village of Burns Lake village council should go a long way toward reassuring locals the company puts concerns of area residents before absolute profit.
The saga of failed emissions testing at the plant is well-known to readers of Lakes District News, although some would have had us push harder on the issue. We’ve followed quarterly testing results offered by the ministry, and have at times wondered what the final resolution of these repeated failed tests could possibly be.
Burns Lake and area residents have often called in or written to express the same concern. Air quality is one of the biggest living issues many face, especially those with compromised respiratory systems. Some suggested that we were easy on Pinnacle because of the industry, jobs and tax base they provided the region.
Reporting on the problems surrounding emissions controls is not as straight forward as it might seem. Conversations with scientists at the Ministry of Environment (MOE) can be difficult because the knowledge they assume a reporter might have is actually a far cry from the knowledge the reporter actually has.
I found with the ministry, the best thing to do was to double-check every assumption I was making about what their quarterly statistics meant, and when I did that, the picture surrounding the repeated failed stack-emission tests became more nuanced and certainly less black-and-white.
But Pinnacle was failing tests, no matter what nuance one gave to those failures, and it had to stop at some point or the whole exercise would become meaningless.
The question nobody wanted to ask was, what if the stacks can’t be brought within provincial regulations? Would the plant have to close, or what is more likely, would area residents have to learn to deal with a poorer air quality (much like residents of Kitimat have to resign themselves to sulphur dioxide emissions from aluminum smelter operations).
If you want industry, you have to accept the grit that comes with it, is the approach to which most industry towns reconcile themselves.
Pinnacle didn’t take that approach, and they could have.
If push came to shove, I believe the MOE would have modified emissions requirements if the plant’s technology couldn’t produce the results they hoped for, even if only because the initial parameters allowed for flexibility within a safe range.
Instead, Pinnacle decided to eat close to $6.5 million already invested into the uncooperative existing scrubber technology and invest another five million dollars in a proven technology.
Another interesting development, although it’s happening far away, is the near completion of Pinnacle’s new storage and shipping terminal in Prince Rupert. The project helps to ensure the long-term viability of the Burns Lake plant, Pinnacle’s largest producer.
Pinnacle’s new investment in Burns Lake and in the Prince Rupert terminal project is good for Burns Lake on two fronts.
It gives Lakes District residents the confidence that Pinnacle is good corporate neighbour, and that they have a long-term plan for the Burns Lake pellet plant.