LAVINGTON - A number of promises were made as part of a mediated agreement between a North Okanagan pellet plant, the provincial government and local residents, according to newly released documents.
A Memorandum of Understanding between Pinnacle Renewable Energy Inc., the Ministry of Environment and local residents Thomas Coape-Arnold, Geoffrey Nielsen and Kenneth Fiddes was released this month in response to a Freedom of Information request by iNFOnews.ca. The agreement was signed June 17, 2016 and brought a conclusion to an environmental appeal filed by Coape-Arnold, Nielsen and Fiddes.
Shortly after the settlement was reached, a provincial government spokesperson said the details could not be disclosed “due to the confidentiality agreement in the mediation.”
The agreement, which was released in full, states: “This Memorandum of Understanding is a public document and is not confidential.”
The agreement contains ten actions, including continued stack testing, dust fall monitoring, and the creation of an air quality management committee made up of a ministry representative, a minimum of two lay members from the community, and a representative from Pinnacle.
Pinnacle president Leroy Reitsma says the settlement, which was mediated by a member of the Environmental Appeal Board, “brought a good conclusion to things.”
Pinnacle has complied with most of the actions already, Reitsma says, but is still waiting for direction from the Ministry of Environment before it can install dust canisters, which will be used to monitor dust fall. Reitsma insists Pinnacle's commitments are not being held up by the province.
“They’re a busy bunch,” he says.
In written statement, the appellants say the settlement was not everything they wanted but does ensure implementation of an air quality management plan for Lavington, auditing of stack tests, an online reporting system for complaints and an additional one year of monitoring.
“This is all good for Lavington,” the statement reads, in part.
The appellants, who are members of the registered non-profit society Lavington is For Everyone, go on to say they asked for monitoring of odorous volatile organic compounds, but the Ministry refused.
"We still contend that this has not been an air quality improvement project for Lavington — all you have to do is stand downwind of Pinnacle on low wind days to smell the impact."
With new technology, Pinnacle says overall emissions from both the pellet plant and the existing Tolko sawmill were reduced at the site.
“Lavington LIFE looks forward to working with the Ministry of Environment, Tolko, Pinnacle and others on the Lavington Air Quality Management Plan. We would hope that the District of Coldstream would also be represented on the Air Quality Committee, but to date they have said no — this is disappointing,” the appellants say.
They also say the appeal process was long and arduous, made longer by repeated delays from the provincial government.
“We feel we had and have a strong case, but felt that mediation was a reasonable approach to bring this to closure. Too much of our personal lives was being consumed.”
In an interview, appellant Thomas Coape-Arnold says the group is expecting a Woodstove Exchange program for Lavington and Coldstream to get off the ground in early 2017. As part of the mediated settlement, Pinnacle agreed to match government funding for the woodstove exchanges.
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