On July 18, 2014 the Province of British Columbia released the long-awaited Kitimat Airshed Study (though completed on April 25, 2014, the study was not previously released pending review).
The study is an independent assessment intended to assist the Province’s regulatory decision-making process by providing information that will be used to ultimately determine how many industrial facilities can be added to the Kitimat airshed without causing unacceptable impacts to human health and the environment. The study area spans the length of the Douglas Channel from its entrance near Hartley Bay, includes Kitimat, and continues up the Kitimat River towards Terrace. This area, covering some 6,772 km2, is of great importance to a number of projects due to its attractive location for industries seeking a marine terminal along BC’s Pacific Coast in order to access foreign markets.
The study provides an assessment under various scenarios of the likely effects on human health and the environment of SO2 and NO2 emissions from existing and proposed facilities in the area, namely the existing Rio-Tinto Alcan aluminum smelter, projected emissions from four proposed LNG terminals (Kitimat LNG, Douglas Channel LNG, Triton LNG, and LNG Canada), a proposed oil refinery, and gas turbine powered electrical generation facilities, as well as related marine transportation sources.
While the study does identify potential risks to human health (especially in relation to SO2 emissions in proximity to industrial areas) and environmental impacts (particularly impacts to soil and lakes), BC’s Environment Minister, Mary Polak, says:
“This study tells us that with proper management there is significant capacity in the Kitimat airshed to safely accommodate industrial growth, while still protecting human health and the environment.”
Notably, the study does not propose absolute limits on the amount of emissions that would be acceptable in the Kitimat airshed.
This study will likely provide guidance for project proponents with respect to the Province’s approach to regulation of air emissions not only in the Kitimat area, but also in nearby Prince Rupert and Grassy Point, where results from this study are also intended to help inform regulatory decision making.
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