Tuesday’s snow storm in Victoria meant Williams Lake Mayor Walt Cobb was unable to get there for a scheduled meeting with Premier John Horgan to discuss Atlantic Power Corp.
Cobb, however, said during Tuesday evening’s council meeting they have rescheduled to meet on Friday, Feb. 15 in Vancouver.
Cobb and the rest of city council have been pushing for a long-term electricity purchase agreement between BC Hydro and Atlantic Power Corporation’s biomass-fired generating facility in Williams Lake because the present short-term extended agreement will expire June 30, 2019.
“We cannot wait until June it will be too late,” Cobb said. “Atlantic Power has to make a plan, they’ve got to get the fibre, and they cannot sign a deal to get fibre without a contract with BC Hydro. It’s a catch-22.”
United Steelworkers Union Local 1-2017 first vice-president Paul French and Williams Lake Indian Band Chief Willie Sellars will also attend the meeting.
Sellars said as a leader in the community he thinks it’s important to support Cobb and Williams Lake.
“The City of Williams Lake is our partner and any way we can help Walt and contribute in that conversation to better Williams Lake we are going jump all over it,” Sellars said.
“The Premier needs to understand the importance of what Atlantic Power brings to our community here in Williams Lake. They are an important part of the economy here, a major taxpayer, and they have a number of jobs that contribute to local businesses and allow people to provide for their families.”
With the pending closure of Mount Polley Mine in May 2019, the Allowable Annual Cut on a downturn, having a company like Atlantic Power possibly shutting down would contribute even further to impacting the local economy, Sellars added.
Williams Lake Indian Band has been harvesting burned timber from the 2017 wildfires.
“When you think that we have thousands of slash piles from the wildfire salvage that we did adjacent to Highway 97 on Sugar Cane Reserve lands and it’s more feasible for us to burn it than sell it to these places it’s crazy,” Sellars said.
“We need to look at the logistics of getting the fibre into town and creating another revenue stream for the band but also getting rid of it so it’s not sending emissions into the environment.”
WLIB has a relationship with Atlantic Power and is also in discussions with Pinnacle Pellet, Sellars added.
Atlantic Power and Pinnacle Pellet offer ways to diversify the forest economy and WLIB will continue to look at ways to build relationships with both businesses, he added.
Coun. Scott Nelson said Cobb and the delegation will be bringing solutions to the table when they meet with the Premier.
Biomass material for Atlantic Power can be generated from fire suppression efforts, Nelson suggested.
“From cleaning the forest floors to recycling slash piles rather than burning them are some examples, but I think the biggest catalyst we’ve got is that this can actually add value while reducing fires in our region.”
Nelson said the Premier has the capacity through an order in council to allow the province to sign off on an extension of Atlantic Power’s electricity purchase agreement.
“The province has done this before,” Nelson said. “We have been very creative to work toward positive solutions in trying to give the government the tools to use to make sure we have Atlantic Power as a long-term corporate citizen.”