Green groups appeal Alberta power plant ruling

Tue Aug 2, 2011 9:43pm EDT
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By Jeffrey Jones

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - Environmental groups have launched a court action against Alberta's utility regulator, arguing it fast-tracked its approval of a coal-fired power plant so the operator could avoid upcoming carbon regulations.

Ecojustice and the Pembina Institute said on Tuesday they seek to appeal the Alberta Utilities Commission's June 30 interim decision granting Maxim Power Corp approval to build a 500-megawatt generating unit near Grand Cache in western Alberta.

The green groups said they aim to show the commission rushed its decision without considering all the evidence, as it did not conduct a public hearing.

It pointed out the AUC granted Maxim's request to get the green light by June 30, the latest date allowing the plant to be built by July 1, 2015. The company had said it received assurances from the federal environment minister that it could avoid new carbon rules if the plant was built by then.

"It's as if getting this project approved in advance of the federal coal regulations is somehow in the public interest," said Chris Severson-Baker, Pembina's managing director.

"It's really bizarre, not even having a hearing, not granting standing to appear before the AUC to groups like the Pembina Institute who have been working on these issues regarding coal-fired power plants for decades."

Last year, the Canadian government said it would force power producers to phase out older coal-fired power plants unless they can employ expensive technology to cut greenhouse gas emissions, and require new plants to match emissions from gas-fired facilities.

Pembina had sought intervenor status through individuals who live close to the HR Milner Generating Station. Maxim runs that 150-MW plant and the new unit would be at the same site.   Continued...