Lavington resident loses appeal against controversial pellet plant | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Lavington resident loses appeal against controversial pellet plant

A view over the plant in Lavington, summer 2018.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Cole Peterson

LAVINGTON - A former government scientist has lost an appeal which argued that a controversial Lavington wood pellet company should not have been issued a licence to discharge certain levels of contaminants into the air.

Thomas Coape-Arnold had argued a permit issued by the province authorizing Pinnacle Renewable Energy to discharge contaminants to the air should have not allowed certain emissions and should have had conditions attached to it.

However, three Environmental Appeal Board panel members dismissed Coape-Arnold's appeal against the company and the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy in a decision published March 27.

The issues surrounding the Lavington pellet plant and the air quality in the valley go back five years and caused a considerable amount of controversy within the local community, especially given its proximity to nearby Lavington Elementary school. Coape-Arnold was part of a community group called the Lavington Life Society, who were strongly opposed to the plant.

Coape-Arnold's appeal focused on the potential increase of emissions particles released when wood is burnt called volatile organic compounds, known as VOCs. Coape-Arnold argued that an amendment to a provincial permit, issued to the company after it changed its manufacturing process, lacked consideration when it came to an increase of VOCs and that inadequate emissions testing had taken place.

According to the decision, Coape-Arnold put forward a "theory" or "thesis" in which VOC emissions, when combined with certain substances, pose a health risk. The decision says Coape-Arnold put forward a large amount of documentation supporting his claims but the panel chair Gregory Tucker states a large majority of the articles were not admissible as evidence to support his arguments.

Coape-Arnold told in an email that he had no comment on the matter.

The original permit for the pellet plant was granted in December 2014 with Coape-Arnold, and two other residents launching an appeal against the plant January 2015. The plant started its operations in the fall 2015 and the appeal was settled by mediation in June 2016. The Memorandum of Understanding saw the pellet plant, the provincial government and Coape-Arnold come to mediated agreements.

Following a fire at the plant in March 2016, the pellet company decided to change some of the machinery used to dry wood, which resulted in a change of emissions and required an amendment to their licence. Following several environmental studies, the company was granted the amendment in July 2017. One month later Coape-Arnold filed the appeal with the Environment Review Board.

See more stories about the pellet plant here.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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