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Standing up for the Moose Jaw SaskPower Plant

MLA Warren Michelson's column for the week of Sept. 11, 2019
Moose Jaw North MLA Warren Michelson

SaskPower’s natural gas-fired power plant planned for the City of Moose Jaw is of vital importance to our community and I want to assure citizens that the Saskatchewan Party Government and I are working diligently to see this project move forward.

This week I wrote to Minister McKenna, the Federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change, stating our disapproval of changes made on June 28, 2019, to the environmental status of natural gas fired power plants, and to express serious concerns about the increase to the carbon tax on large emitters.

This increase to the carbon tax for the planned power plant project in Moose Jaw represents a significant cost of over $2 billion in the first 15 years of operation, assuming that the tax doesn’t continue to increase beyond $50 in 2022.

This change in environmental status should be reconsidered and repealed as our province has demonstrated environmental leadership through ‘Prairie Resilience,’ our made-in-Saskatchewan climate change plan.

Our Climate Change Framework is targeting a 40 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in the electricity sector below 2005 levels - by 2030. This commitment, which is now formally recognized in the Canada-Saskatchewan Equivalency Agreement, is at risk.

Minister McKenna was well aware of SaskPower’s decision to build a combined cycle natural gas power plant in Moose Jaw through an initial environmental impact assessment several years ago. This base-load power generation is planned to replace SaskPower’s coal plants and backup our province’s expanding portfolio of intermittent renewables such as wind.

In order to achieve substantial emission reduction targets, the gas plant at Moose Jaw is required as the alternatives will unnecessarily increase rates for SaskPower customers, including the many energy-intensive and trade-exposed job creators here in Moose Jaw.  

In fact, ground was broken for a 200MW wind project south of Moose Jaw this summer and we’re happy to see the economic opportunities coming to this area from such a project. But this increase means delays, and more emissions may result from base-load power coming from existing coal and natural gas facilities.  It is also important to note that Minister McKenna did not consult on this carbon tax increase for natural gas-fired electricity facilities. The regulations as she proposed them in October 2018 were completely different than the increase that she made in June 2019.

The transition to more sustainable energy can come with economic opportunities, however when the people of this province are faced with the burdens of these carbon tax increases, investments like the natural gas facility in Moose Jaw become uncertain. If this is the kind of uncertainty facing a Crown-owned utility, it is an even more adverse signal being generated to private investment.

We urge the decision makers in Ottawa to repeal this unnecessary increase to the carbon tax and implement regulations that support the Climate Change Framework and economic opportunities for the Province of Saskatchewan.

Alongside Premier Scott Moe, Saskatchewan Environment Minister Dustin Duncan, and our Saskatchewan Party Government, I will continue to stand up for the Moose Jaw natural gas power plant project and continue standing up for Saskatchewan.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of this publication.  

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