Ministry of Environment won't research proposed Lavington pellet plant

The Lavington Elementary School playground backs onto the Tolko mill property, where a new pellet plant is proposed to go.
Image Credit: Contributed

VERNON - The only public consultation and technical information the Ministry of Environment will review as part of its approval process for a pellet plant in Lavington will come from the proponent of the project itself.

According to the Ministry, it conducts no further research or discussion with stakeholders in cases such as this, but rather relies on the reports provided by the applicant.

In an email, the Ministry stated Pinnacle Renewable Energies—a company that wants to build a pellet plant near Lavington Elementary School—will have to submit a technical assessment and consultation report as part of its application for a permit. The project does not meet the threshold to be put through the Ministry’s environmental assessment process.

Pinnacle intends to construct the pellet plant next to the existing Tolko Mill off School Road. The company has met stiff opposition from local residents, particularly those with children attending the elementary school. The District of Coldstream agreed to rezone the land to permit the plant, but not without sending the Ministry certain recommendations regarding the operation. It asked the province not to issue a permit unless Pinnacle meets the provincial air quality guidelines. When combined with background air quality, the company estimates the plant’s emitted particulate matter will be 8.1 micrograms per cubic meter. That exceeds provincial guidelines by 0.1 microgram per cubic meter.

The technicalities, and the contrasting information presented by Pinnacle and by a citizens group called Lavington is for Everyone (LIFE) was too much for the Vernon School District, which got the chance to provide input. In a letter to the Ministry, board chair Bill Turanski said the district doesn’t have “the expertise or the resources to determine the accuracy of the information provided” and refused to endorse the project.

It’s up to the Ministry to go through the data provided by Pinnacle and determine its validity.

“In the technical assessment report to be submitted with the application, the proponent and its consultants are required to assess potential impacts of discharges from the pellet plant on all nearby receptors including the elementary school. The statutory decision maker will consider all these factors before adjudicating the application,” the ministry stated.

“Public consultation is done by the proponent prior to making a formal application to the Ministry.”

The consultation report summarizes all consultation that was conducted and what actions were taken to address concerns.

Should the permit be granted, the Ministry said Pinnacle will likely be required to have a monitoring system to measure dust, particulate matter and emissions.

Once all required information is received, Ministry staff will assess the application and make a recommendation for a decision to the director. The director will either grant a permit with conditions, refuse the application, or ask for more information.

The Ministry states it has not yet received a final application from Pinnacle.

The Agricultural Land Commission has already given its permission for the land to be used for non-farm use purposes. 

To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at or call 250-309-5230. To contact the editor, email or call 250-718-2724.

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