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MLA, chamber add support for long-term, sustainable agreement for Atlantic Power

The company announced it will close in January 2025 if lack of fibre is not addressed

Williams Lake Chamber of Commerce and Cariboo Chilcotin MLA Lorne Doerkson have joined the city in going to bat for Atlantic Power Corp.

Recently the biomass-fired generating facility in Williams Lake announced it will close in January 2025 if its lack of access to fibre is not remedied.

Opened in 1993, Atlantic Power has been using fuel from wood waste generated from sawmills and roadside logging debris.

The company also renewed a 10-year contract with BC Hydro in 2019.

Representatives from the company met with city council and staff during a committee of the whole meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 6, to ask for support.

On Tuesday, Feb. 13, during the regular council meeting, a motion was passed unanimously to ask local First Nations, the Cariboo Regional District, MLA Doerkson and the chamber to request meetings with Premier David Eby to advocate for the creation of a long-term, sustainable agreement between BC Hydro and Atlantic Power.

Chamber president and long-time forest industry worker and union representative Paul French appeared as a delegation during the council meeting.

“We support city council’s motion about Atlantic Power,” French said, adding in 2019 he went and talked to the premier about the issue.

French said Atlantic Power initially received the fibre free because it was being diverted from the mills, but is having to purchase the fibre.

“The province has to come up with a deal to purchase fibre,” French said. “In 2019 the highest bidder was the one who won it and Atlantic Power was not able to compete.”

Pointing to January, French said Atlantic Power shut down and BC Hydro was buying power from Washington State.

“It’s crazy,” French said. “The province is pushing for a green B.C. - this is a good opportunity to push for keeping the companies working.”

Mayor Surinderpal Rathor thanked French for showing support for Atlantic Power.

“Not many people in the community come forward … we have to go out and ask for support,” he said.

MLA Doerkson also appeared as a delegation and one of the things he spoke about was offering his support to Atlantic Power.

“We need to know what is happening,” he told council. “There are too many questions that come into my office every day about fire mitigation and cleaning up piles.”

Doerkson said presently piles along Dog Creek Road and in Lac La Hache were being consumed by fire.

“Not a day goes by we don’t hear about fibre shortage. I will tell you right now we need to stop and understand this better.”

Coun. Scott Nelson thanked French and Doerkson saying it is a very important issue, adding he heard a government minister warning the province will have to import hydro in 2024 because two major reservoirs are in a drought.

“Here we have a biomass hydro producing project,” Nelson said. “You drive 30 to 40 km from this community and you see tons of fibre being burnt. I think this community needs to come together - this is an important project.”

Coun. Joan Flaspohler said Atlantic Power is existing infrastructure that helps Williams Lake and the country.

“It is environmentally sound on so many levels. We have to make sure it does not get missed,” she said. “We will work as hard as a council for the best situation we can. Hopefully they can rescind their notice.”

Rathor agreed adding why waste infrastructure that is already in place.

“I know with help from our MLA, and the chamber, our neighbours, the Cariboo Regional District and First Nations we can push. I don’t see why we cannot get what we want,” he said.

He said the city has already requested a meeting with the premier’s office.

READ MORE: Williams Lake power plant, city’s biggest tax payer gives notice

READ MORE: WLIB partners with Atlantic Power Corp.

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Monica Lamb-Yorski

About the Author: Monica Lamb-Yorski

A B.C. gal, I was born in Alert Bay, raised in Nelson, graduated from the University of Winnipeg, and wrote my first-ever article for the Prince Rupert Daily News.
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