Friday, June 13, 2014

Pinnacle Presentation provides a portrait of a plant still evolving

Monday evening at City Council offered up a lesson in pretty well everything that one could hope to learn about wood pellets and how they're shipped.

As Mr. Vaughn Bassett, the Vice President of Sales and Logistics for Pinnacle Renewable Energy appeared in front of Prince Rupert Council providing a fairly extensive review of all things involving the Pellet industry.

In a multi-media presentation that went for more than an hour on Monday evening, Mr. Bassett took Council through the process of developing the pellets at plants across British Columbia and then on to their shipment terminal at Prince Rupert.

During his overview he addressed some of the concerns that have been raised in the community regarding noise, dust, wood smell and the company's Corporate path in the community.

Advising that in some cases fixes to the concerns were already in place, while continuous improvement planning is in place for others and that the company continues to seek out other potential solutions.

Time and time again the Pinnacle Vice President stressed to Council how the company wishes to be a good citizen of the community.

"We've taken this issue very seriously, as I said earlier our intention is to be good neighbours and you can't be good neighbours if you're doing those kind of things ... we understand it, we are sympathetic to it and apologetic for it ...  and the message that you all should take from this is that we have been and will continue to take strides to get to the bottom of it all" -- Mr. Vaughn Bassett, Vice-President Sales and Logistics, Pinnacle Renewable Energy, addressing City Council on Monday night.

As he wrapped up his presentation the Pinnacle Vice-President outlined the company's plan to host an Open Day in July or August, inviting residents to explore the site to learn about their process and engage with the company on topics of interest or concern.

For the most part the overview was informative and quite comprehensive, however there was no doubt once the question period started, as to the topics which Council members wished to discuss.

The conversation was opened up by the Mayor who highlighted some of the concerns that Council had heard in recent months about issues regarding noise and dust from the west side terminal.

Before the conversation of the evening was over all of the councillors, except for Councillor Carlick-Pearson who was absent on the night, would weigh in on the theme and provide different approaches to seeking information and addressing issues.

Some members of council tried to present the issue as one of a major concern for the entire community, as opposed to the perception for many in town of the Pinnacle plant being more of an issue mainly affecting residents of the west side of the city.  Of importance to those who live near the terminal and who have delivered their well documented complaints to City Council over the last few months.

At times the tone of some councillors during the discussion, suggested that perhaps one or two of them may have engaged in one too many viewings of the court room scene from a Few Good Men, such was the approach of some of their commentary.

However, for those residents that have raised their concerns over issues related to Pinnacle Pellet however, Council certainly carried their torches on the night.

Councillors Garon and Kinney offered up a short observation on the nature of monitoring equipment before giving way to the more vociferous trio of Council members of Ashley, Cunningham and Thorkelson.

Councillor Ashley offered up thoughts on a number of topics related to past promises and expectations and the reality of the plant's current operational status.

Councillor Cunningham expressed concerns over wood dust and the dangers that it poses, he also raised issues regarding the operational schedule that Pinnacle Pellet operates the plant on, suggesting that they are working too long into the night for the neighbouring area.

He also outlined where he thought the company might address some of its community involvement towards, suggesting that recreation area work in Moresby Park, or along the Rushbrook Trail could help the company become more engaged with the community.

Councillor Thorkelson outlined how she "echoed the rest of Council's disappointment with Pinnacle regarding the promises made during the EA process and the outcome of the first months of loading those vessels" adding on to many of the same topics as those raised by Councillors Ashley and Cunningham.

She also asked Mr. Bassett,  if the Port had forwarded the complaints and pictures received regarding the plants operations, and stated that if not; she was sure someone around the Council chamber could forward them to him.

"Have you seen the pictures? Have you been receiving the emails that people have been sending you, or say they've sent to you? (Pictures) Of billows of dust ... if you haven't seen them, I'm sure somebody here with their computer can send them to you"  -- Part of Councillor Joy Thorkelson's comments and questions for Pinnacle Renewable Energy's Vice President Vaughn Bassett on Monday evening.

Through much of Council's commentary on Monday evening they made frequent mention of the Environmental Assessment phase and how Pinnacle's comments then, particularly regarding noise and dust haven't been delivered quite as advertised at the time.

Councillor Thorkelson expanded her thoughts on the Environmental Assessment process, using Pinnacle Pellet as an entry point to comment on other projects in the community as well as with her concerns on the pellet facility.

"If we can't trust the EA process, to deliver what was promised in the EA process, then we have an EA Process at Canpotex, an EA process at LNG plants, you know it becomes something that you start wondering what the process is for. To begin with, if people make promises that they maybe had intentions of living up to, or thought they could live up to, or new technology and this is what we've been told it will do and then it doesn't happen...   (Then) what's the recourse?  Obviously, To ask you to move? To tear things down, to move out of town? That's not going to happen but that's how people are feeling, because they were promised this at the EA process and you haven't delivered, and we don't care why you didn't deliver, we were said no dust, no noise, and that's sort of what people expect" -- Councillor Joy Thorkelson offering some thoughts on EA promises and outcomes related to industrial projects in the community.

However when it comes to that apparently hot talking point of the Environmental Assessment, Council conveniently has avoided mentioning that when the Prince Rupert Port Authority offered the chance for the City to  participate in the process back in 2012, the City chose not to offer comment.

That interesting bit of information can be found in the Prince Rupert Port Authority Draft report of the time, from page 62, this note outlines the City's decision not to participate.

Council obviously has a role to play in relaying the concerns of residents at this point of the process and with an election looming in November, they would be foolish not to engage on behalf of the west side residents.

However, the disappointment and focus of the Councillors over the entire Environmental Assessment process would have perhaps been better served, had the City participated in the process at the time.

It was a valuable part of the project's development, where they had the opportunity to present their concerns during that initial process, where they could have presented their overview on such topics as noise, dust, operational timeline and even on site selection if they really had been inclined.

For those inclined to review that document it is still available on the Prince Rupert Port Authority website, you can access the working draft document of the time here.

At times, it appears that Council's interest in the topic only become more engaged after pressure was applied from the residents of the affected neighbourhood.

As part of the Mayor's initial commentary to Mr. Bassett of Monday night,  he outlined his request that Pinnacle return to council in September to provide an update on the summer's developments.

At the conclusion of the night's presentation, the Mayor wrapped up the conversation with a reminder that we'll see you in September.

An appearance that perhaps might fit nicely into the lead up towards the fall election, with Council taking on the appropriate role that may be required at that time, depending on that follow up report.

A more comprehensive review of the full presentation can be found on our City Council Timeline, or better yet, you can review the presentation and question and answer period from the City's Video Archive, it starts at the eight minute mark and continues on until one hour and nineteen minutes.

A full background on the issues of the Pinnacle Pellet project can be found here.

There are more items on developments at City Council available on our Archive page.

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