Future of Calstock Power Plant in Jeopardy January 29, 2020

January 28, 2020, Hearst, Ontario:  For 20 years the Calstock Biomass Generation Facility west of Hearst has not only provided Ontario with safe, green, renewable electricity, it has also fulfilled a critical role in the regional forest industry. Through the annual purchase of $3.5M of biofuel wood-waste, Calstock Power Plant (CPP) provides essential revenue for local mills and supports hundreds of high-paying jobs in our community. Now however, without action from Greg Rickford, the Ontario Minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines, this plant will close.

CPP’s Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with the Ontario Electricity Financial Corporation expires this June. Despite more than a year of attempted negotiation by the plant’s owner, Atlantic Power, the Ontario Government has thus far declined to extend the PPA, even at CPP’s substantially reduced rates. The government cited its commitment to avoid new contracts and its desire to reduce electricity rates as reasons to avoid a PPA extension.

A PPA extension for CPP would cost the average provincial ratepayer as little as 30¢ per year and ensure the long-term viability of our forestry sector. Without an extension, our community will immediately lose more than 20 full-time, high-paying jobs at CPP.  Moreover, the Municipality is deeply concerned about the direct impact the loss of revenue will have on more than 400 local positions at the wood-waste-supplying mills and service industries.

CPP was constructed 20 years ago to halt the carbon-emitting practice of landfilling wood-waste which today amounts to approximately 300,000 tonnes per year compared to generating electricity.  We’re troubled to think government will force mills backward 20 years to this environmentally outdated practice.  As well, Municipal Council is concerned that forestry mills may need to suspend or scale-back operations until a new landfill site can be permitted and constructed, a process that takes at least two years.

Minister Rickford’s office, to date, has deferred multiple requests from Hearst Municipal Council for a meeting to find common ground on this issue.   A resolution is challenging because multiple Ministries are involved.  Wood-waste is governed by Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, yet is low priority.  Landfilling only becomes a concern for Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks when an application for a new site is made, and the concerns for landfilling and carbon emission don’t fall to the Ministry of Energy, Northern Development and Mines which holds the ultimate answer by extending the PPA.

Hearst Council is confident that a mutually agreeable solution is within reach, one that addresses the government’s commitment to reducing electricity costs without imposing an undue burden on our community and others in the North, but we can only get there by working together. Inaction is not an option. We urgently call upon Ontario to approve Atlantic Power’s request for a contract extension in order to protect the vital CPP, its dependent industries  and our community.

If you are as concerned about this situation as we are, Hearst Municipal Council strongly encourages you to write to Minister Rickford at greg.rickford@pc.ola.org or 99 Wellesley St. W, Suite 5630, Toronto, ON M7A 1W1 and let him know that our community needs his help.

We want to assure you that your Mayor and Council will do everything in their power to protect the jobs and economic interests of our community.

Please direct all external inquiries to Mayor Roger Sigouin:

Cell:  705-372-8399

e-mail:  rsigouin@hearst.ca