From the Chilliwack Progress Archives: Fighting the Sumas 2 energy plant

In 2001, strong opposition thwarted construction of a pollution-generating power plant in Sumas.

Since first publishing on April 16, 1891 the Chilliwack Progress has been the newspaper of record in Chilliwack.

One hundred and 28 years later the Progress remains the longest continuously published newspaper in British Columbia. With the addition of a thriving digital operation anchored by theprogress.com, the Progress delivers more news to more people than ever before.

‘From the Progress Archives’ is a journey into the past, to see what was making news decades ago.

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Headline: Sumas 2 vice president angry with ‘myths’

Chuck Martin says Fraser Valley airshed is generally good and he is tired of the fear mongering. Local experts, however, disagree.

Date: February 25, 2001

Reporter: Trudy Beyak, MetroValley News Service

SE2 vice-president Chuck Martin lashed out against the Canadian opposition yesterday, claiming it is a ‘myth’ that the Fraser Valley is a sensitive, polluted airshed.

“The air quality (in the Fraser Valley) is generally good, except for some ozone episodes – the airshed is not being systematically impaired,” said Mr. Martin.

“It’s fear mongering. This airshed is no different from any of the other airsheds up and down the northwest coast,” he said.

Mr. Martin pointed out recent “hypocritical” actions north of the border to prove his point.

He criticized the fact that local hospitals were recently burning diesel oil, the Abbotsford Airport expansion, the apparent intention to store jet fuel (over the Abbotsford aquifer), and the operation of the Burrard Thermal Plant in the GVRD to take advantage of American energy shortages.

Mr. Martin’s statements were met with concern.

SE2 opponents, like Abbotsford Coun. Patricia Ross, characterized Mr. Martin’s comments as desperate.

“What he’s saying about the air pollution in the Valley being just “a myth, is hogwash. The people in the Fraser Valley know the facts,” said Ross.

In addition, the Fraser Valley Regional Health Board does not intend to burn diesel oil in its hospitals in the future.

Bruce Thomson, head of the Environment Canada Atmospheric Sciences Section, Pacific Region, said the pollution facts and statistics speak for themselves.

Smog levels that pose potential risks to health already occur in the Fraser Valley 43 per cent of the time for ground-level ozone, said Mr. Thomson, adding that ozone also causes about $8 million in damages to Fraser Valley crops every year.

Dr. Donald Cook, an Abbotsford internal medicine specialist, hammered Mr. Martin’s rhetoric.

“He doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” said Mr. Cook, a spokesman for local doctors who are overwhelmingly opposed to the power plant.

“Would Mr. Martin want to live within 500 metres of his proposed power plant and would he sent his children to the school that’s located within 500 metres of his power plant?” asked Mr. Cook. (Mr. Martin lives in the Seattle area).

Local physicians are so concerned about SE2 that many will leave if it goes ahead.

In fact, 38 per cent of the doctors in the Fraser Valley who responded to a recent survey said they “would definitely leave” the area if SE2 is built, said Mr. Cook.

Of 238 doctors in the Valley, 164 responded to the survey.

Mr. Cook said SE2 poses a genuine threat to human health and doctors are concerned about their patients, especially those with chronic respiratory disease and asthma.

The unique geography and climate in the eastern Fraser Valley creates a “tail-pipe” effect and the Fraser Valley already has a higher than expected number of deaths due to respiratory disease, said Mr. Cook.

“We live in a unique and endangered airshed, we live in the tail pipe where the pollutants from Whatcom County and Vancouver end up being concentrated here,” he said.

The power plant, if built, would emit three tons of air pollutants a day, in addition to 2.4 million tons of carbon dioxide a year, and drain 1.2 million gallons of water daily from the Abbotsford aquifer.

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