Monday, March 21, 2005 Link To Herald The Halifax Herald Limited

The stacks at NSP's Tufts Cove plant in Dartmouth, pictured earlier this month.


The top 15 contributors to the Polluter Pay Fund in 2004-05.

Nova Scotia Power Inc.: $448,335.40

Imperial Oil: $33,934.28

Kimberly-Clark Inc.: $13,171.82

ExxonMobil Canada Properties: $7,850.87

Stora Enso: $5,807.36

Michelin North America (Canada) Inc.: $5,337.99

Lafarge Canada Inc.: $4,644.76

Defence Department: $3,850

Brooklyn Power Corp.: $2,597.78

PolyCello: $1,948.06

Louisiana Pacific Canada Ltd.: $1,506.97

Capital district health authority: $1,400

Canadian Salt Co. Ltd.: $1,050

Minas Basin Pulp and Power Co. Ltd.: $1,050

Intertape Polymer Group: $702

Source: Nova Scotia Environment Department

Smoking bill rises for NSP
Dirty-air fines cost electrical utility $448,000 in past year

By EVA HOARE / Investigative Reporter / Special Report

Nova Scotia Power, the province's top polluter, has paid more than $700,000 over the past three years for releasing chemicals into the air from its coal-burning power plants.

The province charged the utility $448,335 in polluter-pay fees for emissions from April 1, 2004 to this month.

NSP paid a total of $263,000 in the two previous years. The government started charging the fees in 2002.

A list of polluters and fees paid to the province was provided to this newspaper by the Environment Department's industrial air emissions fees program. Fees are based on sulphur dioxide emissions reported by the federally run National Pollutant Release Inventory. The list contains the names of 35 of the province's top air polluters.

Environment Canada figures show that NSP's Lingan plant, its oldest, is the second-worst air polluter in terms of sulphur dioxide in the country. It releases 76,034 tonnes of sulphur dioxide annually. Ontario Hydro's Nanticoke plant, which is bigger, pumps out 86,710 tonnes a year.

The Lingan plant produces sulphur dioxide at a rate five times higher than Nanticoke, according to Environment Canada.

"All the sulphur that goes in the coal is going up the stack, or 99 per cent," says Michael Hingston, air quality engineer with Environment Canada in Halifax. "We're producing . . . a lot more sulphur dioxide than electricity benefit."

The Lingan facility also produces 12,871 metric tonnes of nitrogen oxide, putting it seventh on that Environment Canada list. For mercury, the agency ranks Lingan 10th.

Darren Bruckschwaiger, a councillor with the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, represents the people on whose homes those emissions fall.

He is astonished at both the amount of pollution and the fees.

"It is shocking for me to see the amount of money that's being paid. That certainly tells me the type of emissions they're emitting," said Mr. Bruckschwaiger, whose district includes Dominion, Gardiner Mines, River Ryan, Scotchtown and the western side of Glace Bay.

"I never heard of this before."

Mr. Bruckschwaiger said he gets complaints from constituents with respiratory conditions and has written NSP about cutting Lingan emissions.

"The company should clean up . . . their act," he said.

He's worried fallout from Lingan won't be reduced because current emissions laws require an overall cut and don't specify reductions at individual NSP facilities.

NSP is satisfied with the industrial emissions fees program and the amounts it must pay, company spokeswoman Margaret Murphy said.

"We're happy to pay into the fund," she said. "The air quality in Nova Scotia will be improved going forward."

The Nova Scotia government uses polluter-pay fees to run its air quality program.

"With respect to the fees and/or pollution control, it's not a case of doing one thing or the other. We must do both."

Ms. Murphy said NSP has taken steps to reduce pollution, including adding pollution control equipment at Tufts Cove in Dartmouth, which burns bunker C oil and natural gas, building a $30-million marine terminal in the Strait of Canso to receive lower-sulphur coal, and paying $20 million annually (starting in 2004) to burn the lower-sulphur product at four of its plants.

Ms. Murphy said more measures are on the way and she wouldn't rule out the closure of one of the utility's plants.

Sitting a distant second on the province's air polluters list is Imperial Oil, which paid $33,934 in the latest year.

The former Kimberly-Clark paper mill in Abercrombie (now Neenah Paper Co. of Canada) was billed $13,171.

ExxonMobil Canada Properties, the lead player in the Sable offshore project, was No. 4, paying $7,850.

Out of the 35 listed, only the Defence Department, which owes $3,850, has not paid. A department spokeswoman said the federal agency refuses to pay a tax not levied by Ottawa.

"Because we are a federal facility and we comply with federal regulations . . . this is then viewed as a new tax on a federal agency," Lieut. Sue Stefko said.

Imperial spokesman Pierre Desrochers said a $100-million refit of its Dartmouth refinery, to be completed by 2007, will cut pollution significantly.

"There's a lot of effort," he said in a recent interview from Imperial's Montreal offices. "I don't think we'll ever ever come to a zero."

The rest of those on the list paid from $350 to $6,000 in 2004-05.

The province has also placed an annual cap on industrial air emissions of sulphur dioxide provincewide at 189,000 tonnes. Under that cap, set in 2001, sulphur dioxide must be cut to 142,000 tonnes by this month, and that amount must be slashed again by 50 per cent in 2010.

As of 1995, NSP, which is singled out in provincial emissions regulations, cannot release more than 145,000 tonnes of sulphur dioxide from all power plants combined. By 2010, its total emissions must be cut in half.

Mr. Bruckschwaiger isn't alone in his concern about NSP pollution and Nova Scotia's air quality.

"There's a lot that Nova Scotia could be doing to improve itself," said Jennifer Foulds, with Environmental Defence, the group that operates the website Pollution Watch.

"If it is Canada's Ocean Playground, then clean up your air or else you can end up with a bad reputation across the country."

Her group has named NSP the country's No. 7 air polluter.

"There's no question that the coal-powered plants are really fuelling Nova Scotia's poor air quality," she said.

Sulphur dioxide is among the chemicals that contribute to relatively high summertime smog levels in Nova Scotia, which generally top that of Western Canada. Southern Ontario has the highest levels.

While the province has made commitments to improve air quality, change won't likely be evident until after the final cap goes in effect in 2010, Mr. Hingston said. Per capita, Nova Scotians pump out the most air pollution in Atlantic Canada.

The new regulations will be a challenge for NSP, he said.

"There'll be another 50 per cent (reduction required) by 2010. That's going to be difficult for them to meet. They might be forced to close one of their older plants or put in scrubbers."

Recent decreases in sulphur dioxide levels stem from cuts in other regions and tougher automobile emissions laws, he said.

Nova Scotia's location downwind from North America's industrial heartland also makes it a vulnerable landing spot for chemicals, Mr. Hingston said.

New Brunswick, which also has an emissions fees program, has fared much better in reducing emissions, he said.

That province's emissions database includes 700 companies, which are required to register if building or operating a facility. Registrants are placed in categories or classes and billed accordingly, said Perry Hanes, spokesman for the program.

Mr. Hingston said overall such a program isn't a major deterrent for polluters.

"Those fees are no different than paying for an automobile registration or licensing. It's really a way for the government to fund the (monitoring) programs."

Burning natural gas at NSP facilities would cut sulphur dioxide levels in Nova Scotia, Mr. Hingston said, acknowledging the move comes with heavy upfront costs.

Mr. Bruckschwaiger said those costs will have to be paid.

"It's the responsibility of the shareholders of the corporation to step up and say: 'We're doing business within these communities and we're going to have to take a hit on our (return)."

Mr. Hingston agreed it's up to shareholders.

"They want a particular rate of return on their investment. To put scrubbers on or (use) cleaner fuels, that all costs money.

"But it also comes with benefits. If we happen to have more salmon in our rivers, cleaner air to breathe . . . just because they're hard to put a price tag on doesn't mean their value is zero."