Chilliwack school district could recoup carbon costs

Chilliwack school district has an opportunity to be refunded two year’s worth of carbon offset fees it’s been paying the B.C. government.

Chilliwack school district has an opportunity to be refunded two year’s worth of carbon offset fees it’s been paying the B.C. government.

Last week the environment ministry announced a new $5 million capital program available to school districts for energy efficiency projects that will help lower their carbon emissions.

Starting in the 2012-13 school year, the amount of funding available through the K-12 energy efficiency capital program will be equal to or greater than the total paid by school districts each year for purchases of carbon offsets from the Pacific Carbon Trust.

Louise Piper, chair of Chilliwack board of education, declined commenting before speaking with other trustees.

As well, superintendent Michael Audet could not be reached Monday to provide an exact figure on how much the school district has paid in carbon offsets since 2010.

However, when school districts were mandated to become carbon neutral, or otherwise purchase carbon offsets for every tonne of carbon emissions produced in order to obtain carbon neutral status, the fee was set at approximately $11 per student.

In Chilliwack, that would have amounted to more than $264,000 over the two-year span.

Those funds came out of the district’s operating budget.

As well, school districts also had to pay for costs associated with the SMARTTool carbon emission calculator required, which was an estimated $10,000 a year.

As part of last week’s announcement, the government said it would no longer be charging for SMARTTool administration costs.

When the order for carbon neutrality came down, it was met with mixed emotions by Chilliwack trustees. While the board supported reducing its carbon footprint, it didn’t agree with being financially penalized for not meeting an unrealistic goal.

It wasn’t the only board to complain.

On the BC School Trustees Association website, last week’s announcement was cited as a major advocacy win for the BCSTA.

“School trustees sent a clear message last spring that they support the reduction of greenhouse gas emission, but monies charged to boards of education should be reinvested in board of education projects,” BCSTA president Michael McEvoy said in a newsletter.

“This funding will allow us to invest in energy efficiencies for our schools that will save energy, save money and improve the environment for our students now and into the future.”

kbartel@theprogress.com

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