What was planned as a one-hour meeting ran well over two as Kevin Sorenson, MP Battle River-Crowfoot, MLAs, mayors and reeves descended upon the Town of Stettler office on Tuesday, July 19 to discuss the phase-out of coal-fired power stations in Alberta.
“I have friends working at the mines, but further to the fact is that our local communities rely greatly on their employment, the families employed there support local businesses and keep our communities strong,” said main organizer Cody Borek. “I attended a meeting in Castor held by Robin Campbell the President of the Coal Association of Canada and it really hit home how much this would affect all residents, and that inspired me to get involved.”
Among what was discussed were the concerns of phase-out, how to have the least negative impact on affected areas, ways to encourage large business development and a proposal to hold an East Central Alberta meeting bi-annually.
Although the County of Stettler Reeve Wayne Nixon was unable to attend the meeting, he said that he had been following the discussions with interest.
“Our economy certainly needs a boost now and removing coal fired electrical generation would have the opposite effect,” said Nixon. “Coupled with high cost and inefficiency of wind or solar energy, and a carbon tax as well, our economy will continue to struggle.”
Nixon said that if given the chance and proper incentives, the industry would meet the challenges of coal-based emissions much more quickly and more financially efficient than taxes by government.
“On the world scale of carbon dioxide emissions, Canada hardly registers and per capita is the leader in renewable energy already,” added Nixon. “Let’s get our own financial affairs in order first and then we can worry about saving the world, while we are set up for coal-fired generation, let’s make the most of it.”
Mayor Dick Richards said, “As far as the phase out of coal in Alberta goes, the big question I have is what does the rest of the world know that we in Alberta don’t know as far as coal goes?”
According to Richards, while the rest of the developed world continues to invest in coal and in coal-fired power generation plants, Alberta plans the closure of these same types of plants.
“The solution to the issue is the investment in clean emission technology before we close the door on this resource, not to mention the economic devastation that will follow is not short of catastrophic,” said Richards. “Small communities whose economic future depends on the employment of the employees, will become uncertain at best, what concrete measures have been put in place to ensure the survival of these communities.”
Richard said that the provincial government should look into other solutions.
“There are advances in science whereby emissions of a coal fired plant could be less than that of natural gas, is it not the right course of action to explore all avenues before we close the door,” asked Richards. “We as a province must be conscious of the footprint we leave on the planet, and to ignore the entire issue is not the right answer, but the time for open minded discussion is upon us and we need to seize the opportunity to engage in conversation, one that not only includes the environmental impact of these closures, but the economic and social consequences we are all certain to face as well.”