Mr. Speaker, on Friday, March 2 I asked the Minister of the Environment an important question. The minister was not here and neither was his junior minister which is unacceptable. Here is the background to my original question, and I still want an answer.
On February 17 the minister unfairly compared the gas fired cogeneration plant in Campbell River on Vancouver Island with the proposed Sumas 2 plant in Washington state. The minister incorrectly stated that the Vancouver Island plant was ten times as polluting per unit of power and that the province of B.C. should do better.
The minister criticized the province as if he did not know that as part of a thorough environmental review, his own officials were part of the project approval. I have the approval letter right here. It is from Environment Canada, dated February 25, 1998 and is addressed to the provincial environment office. It says that:
—we would not disagree with...recommending they issue a project approval certificate for this project.
I would say that is a pretty strong endorsement.
The $220 million Campbell River plant was approved in 1998 and construction is now complete. It is scheduled to go operational next month, and now the minister is criticizing it.
The real facts are as follows. The polluter label does not apply because this project will, in combination with boiler shut downs at the pulp mill, reduce overall nitrous oxides, sulphur dioxide and carbon monoxide from current levels.
The new steam source means that Elk Falls can shut down two wood-oil fired burners and reduce the use of a gas fired boiler. This reduces the mill energy requirements and total emissions. In addition, sulphur emissions were originally projected based on a much higher sulphur content in the natural gas supply locally than has been demonstrated to be the actual case. The Vancouver Island plant compares very favourably for sulphur dioxide emissions once this correct sulphur content is taken into account.
The minister is apparently totally unaware of this fact. The $240 million project is environmentally sound, creates jobs and helps the economics of the pulp mill. It is no wonder that it received great endorsements from all sectors, until these unfortunate statements by the minister which have outraged the mayor of Campbell River, baffled me and the provincial MLA.
The mayor wrote to the minister on February 19 consequent to the unwarranted criticisms the minister made a couple of days earlier. It is now five weeks later and the minister has still not responded to this letter in any way. The minister has done Vancouver Island a great disservice and particularly my community.
When will the minister retract his unsubstantiated, incorrect and irresponsible criticisms of an enlightened energy project known as the island cogeneration project?