Williams Lake, BC, Friday January 6, 2017:
Rail Ties Be Wise (RTBW) responded today to the Province of BC’s attempts to strike appeals brought against permits allowing Atlantic Power to burn creosote-treated rail ties as up to 50% of its feedstock in their Williams Lake biomass facility.
Williams Lake residents have every reason to be concerned. Burning creosote-soaked rail ties emits chemicals that pose a risk to human health and the environment. The ash residue will also contain toxic chemicals, as the Ministry of Environment has acknowledged. It nevertheless issued permits without addressing how that ash will be disposed of. There are concerns about the slope stability beneath the current ash landfill; the potential for failure of that ground puts the Fraser River watershed at risk, endangering water quality, salmon and other aquatic life.
The appellants argued that the Province should not have issued the permits without considering all of their implications, and that the appeals should be heard by the Environmental Appeal Board (EAB) in a hearing — not dismissed at this early stage.
The Province specifically argued that parts of the appeals dealing with the rail tie ash should be dismissed on the grounds that these requirements were not significantly changed in the amended permits. It is precisely because these issues were not considered that the appellants want them raised to the EAB. They want proper scientific investigation before the permits are finalized, and neither the Province nor Atlantic Power has done this.
RTBW is very concerned that the Province is attempting heavy-handed legal maneuvers to thwart Williams Lake residents’ access to the EAB. In response, RTBW is supporting (at their own expense) the appellants in preparing responses to the EAB just to keep the full scope of the appeals alive.
“The actions by the Province are an attempt to out-spend and ultimately outgun residents who don’t want to see Williams Lake become a destination for toxic rail ties,” says RTBW member Patricia Weber. “We love Williams Lake and we want to protect it from a potential environmental disaster.”
It is alarming that the Province is trying to frustrate citizens’ lawful access to appeal this decision. Yet we remain adamant that the EAB needs to review the decisions around burning millions of rail ties here, including the decision to allow more-toxic ash to be dumped on the edge of the WL River Valley.
Rail Ties Be wise continues to organize and prepare for EAB hearings, expected to be announced in the coming weeks. Concerned citizens and supporters can find out more at www.railtiesbewise.ca. Donations to help with the cost of appeals can be made at www.gofundme.com/2q7qdu4 or the Rail Ties Be Wise account at Williams Lake and District Credit Union.
We gratefully acknowledge West Coast Environmental Law for their support through the Environmental Defense Resource Fund.