March 15, 2018

Rail Ties Be Wise continues to fight the burning of contaminated rail ties in our community.  We’re active on several fronts.

Environmental Appeal Board (EAB) With our West Coast Environmental Law (WCEL) lawyers Erin Gray and Bill Andrews, we have pursued our appeal with the EAB to the fullest extent possible in our circumstances.  An oral hearing was scheduled to take place in Williams Lake beginning April 30, 2018 and lasting 4 weeks.  The cost of such a hearing would be far beyond our ability to pay.  Therefore we applied for a written hearing.  Since all the parties have filed their statements of points, all the arguments are already known and we believe a protracted oral process is unwarranted.  It would basically rehash the arguments, a big waste of taxpayer funding for lawyers and scarce Ministry of Environment staff.

Our request for a written hearing has been granted, on the basis that the cost of the oral process would unfairly disadvantage us.

BC Hydro’s contract with Atlantic Power(AP) The current Electricity Purchase Agreement between AP and BC Hydro expires in April of this year.  Hydro applied for a one-year extension of that contract, meaning they have not decided whether they will continue to buy AP’s output long term.  The current contract was completed before the Clean Energy Act was passed, but a new contract would have to conform. Under the Clean Energy Act, BC Hydro is required to meet at least 93% of its load for planning purposes with “clean or renewable” fuel.  Biomass in the form of wood waste is explicitly within the definition of “clean or renewable”, but the BC Utilities Commission must decide whether that includes railroad ties.  In our view, the fact that railroad ties are treated with either creosote or pentachlorophenols clearly makes them neither clean nor renewable.

The extension has been granted, with the proviso that no railroad ties are to be burned during its term.  During this time, BC Hydro will develop a biomass energy strategy and make decisions on longer-term biomass EPA renewals.

Local Politics  Municipal elections are coming up October 20 of this year, but the campaigning is sure to begin any day now.  If a new Mayor and Council were to reverse the City’s endorsement of burning railroad ties, AP would have a much harder time claiming social license.  Candidates need to hear from every person who doesn’t want our town to become the rail tie burning capital of Canada!  They need to hear that contaminating our air to solve CN’s rail tie disposal problem and AP’s fuel supply problem is not acceptable.  They need to hear that Williams Lake does not want to be known as the place where millions of creosote-soaked railroad ties are stockpiled and burned each year. They need to hear that the young families, the doctors, the teachers, the entrepreneurs and the retirees we need to attract to keep our community viable will not move to the rail tie disposal capital of Canada.  They need to hear that many families are actively planning to move away if rail ties are burned here.  They need to hear that the Mt. Polley disaster has destroyed our confidence in regulators to protect our environment from mismanagement and poor oversight.

They need to hear that their position on railroad ties will determine how you vote.  Get active in this election.  Raise the issue at candidate forums, in letters to the Tribune, with your neighbours and co-workers, on social media.


Rail Ties Be Wise Financial Summary

Donations raised from October-December 2016 $ 9149.35
Donations since December 2016 $ 2469.85
Total donations to date $11,619.20

WCEL lawyers have been representing us since our appeals were begun.  Their Environmental Dispute Resolution Fund (EDRF) has covered approximately 50% of billed hours.

EDRF grant $9218.30
RTBW funds paid toward legal costs $9237.71
Donated lawyer hours (approximate) $8116.00
Funds remaining in RTBW Credit Union account $2381.49

Since our Credit Union account and GoFundMe campaign were opened in October, 2016, Rail Ties Be Wise has been active on several fronts.

  • A day-long celebration of clean air on Oct 2 was volunteer-run using totally donated materials.
  • Legal steps, including appeals to Atlantic Power’s permit to burn rail ties, were initiated in Fall 2016.
  • Information pamphlets, website and facebook pages shared information on the rail tie burning issue and developments.
  • Door-to-door canvassing raised awareness.
  • A petition opposing the burning of rail ties gathered 1500 signatures.


We are extremely grateful to WCEL, our donors and supporters for hanging in with us through this slow process.  As a community, we will protect our air and our health from the folly of burning rail ties in BC.