SkeenaWild Conservation Trust

SkeenaWild Conservation Trust

October 29, 2013 12:04 ET

Locals Appeal Rio Tinto Alcan's Permit to Increase Sulphur Dioxide Emissions, Citing Health and Environmental Concerns

TERRACE, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwired - Oct. 29, 2013) - A group of concerned citizens and local organizations are challenging the BC Ministry of Environment's decision to allow Rio Tinto Alcan to increase sulphur dioxide emissions from its aluminum smelter in Kitimat.

In the Spring of 2013, The BC Ministry of Environment approved a change to Rio Tinto Alcan's permit that will allow them to increase their sulphur dioxide emission limits from the current 27 tonnes per day to 42 tonnes per day. The permit will enable the company to boost smelter production without requiring it to invest in emissions reduction technology.

"Alcan has made tens of billions of dollars smelting aluminum and selling electricity in British Columbia," said Charles Claus, appellant and local food grower. "Investing in scrubbers would not only protect our health and environment, it would also make Rio Tinto Alcan a world leader in sustainability".

Four individuals who reside in and around the Kitimat area, and two local organizations, SkeenaWild Conservation Trust and Lakelse Watershed Society, are appealing the decision to the Environmental Appeal Board. However Rio Tinto Alcan has challenged the standing of all of the appellants to file the appeal. Chris Tollefson of the Environmental Law Centre (ELC) at the University of Victoria and Richard Overstall of Buri Overstall in Smithers, are representing the appellants on the matter of standing and their right to file the appeal.

"The easy, responsible solution is to install sulphur dioxide scrubbers," said Greg Knox, executive director of one appellant, SkeenaWild Conservation Trust. "Rio Tinto Alcan's own experts have told us that scrubbers work well and can easily be installed at the new smelter - the company simply doesn't want to spend the money."

Sulphur dioxide has serious health and environmental impacts. The Northern Health Authority has expressed concerns regarding the health impacts of increased emissions, and has sent letters to Rio Tinto Alcan and the BC Ministry of Environment recommending sulphur dioxide scrubbers be installed. Moreover, the World Health Organization recently issued a press release linking air pollution to an increased risk of lung cancer. Air pollution was already known to increase risks for respiratory and heart diseases.

The chemical also causes the acidification of soils, lakes and rivers. Local food growers have highlighted the potential impacts of soil acidification on food production in the area.

"Given that state of the art, affordable technology is available to scrub, there are no reasons for Rio Tinto Alcan to pass its production costs on to the population and to an already strained environment, especially given that more development with adverse health and environmental consequences is expected for this area", said Lynda Gagné, Terrace homeowner and Assistant Professor at the University of Victoria's School of Public Administration.

While the costs of installing and operating scrubbers are not trivial, they would make up only a small portion of the company's overall investment in the project.

Contact Information

  • SkeenaWild Conservation Trust
    Greg Knox
    250-615-1990 (Terrace)

    Lakelse Lake Watershed Society
    Kelly Kline
    250-798-2535 (Terrace)

    Charles Claus
    250-638-8996 (Terrace)

    Lynda Gagne
    250-590-2081 (Victoria), after October 30th

    Lis Stannus
    250-632-7886 (Kitimat)