• John Pickford v. Director, Environmental Management Act

    Decision Date:
    File Numbers:
    Decision Numbers:
    Third Party:
    Pinnacle Renewable Energy Inc.


    Decision Date: September 11, 2020

    Panel: Susan Ross

    Keywords: Environmental Management Act – ss. 14, 16; Public Notification Regulation – ss. 4(2), 7; permit amendment; air emissions; particulate matter; monitoring

    John Pickford appealed a permit amendment issued by the Director, Environmental Management Act (the “Director”), Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy. The amended permit authorized Pinnacle Renewable Energy Inc. (“Pinnacle”) to discharge increased air contaminants from its wood pellet manufacturing plant in Williams Lake, B.C. Specifically, the amended permit allowed increased particulate emissions subject to numerous conditions, including requirements for Pinnacle to participate in an ambient air quality monitoring program and to monitor emissions from the plant.

    Mr. Pickford appealed the amended permit. Mr. Pickford, who resides in Williams Lake, submitted that he was aggrieved by the increase in particulate emissions allowed by the amended permit, and especially the PM2.5 (particulate matter with a diameter of 2.5 micrometers or less) component of those emissions. He argued that the increased PM2.5 emissions would be harmful to human health. He also argued that air dispersion modelling was not considered before the Director issued the amended permit, Pinnacle’s public notice about its application for the amended permit should have referred to air dispersion modelling, and that modelling data should have been available to the public. In addition, he submitted that the monitoring requirements in the amended permit were inadequate. Mr. Pickford asked the Board to cancel the amended permit, or alternatively, revise the monitoring requirements.

    First, the Board considered two procedural issues. The Board found that some of Mr. Pickford’s reply submissions raised new issues that were not in his grounds of appeal and initial submissions. As such, they were not a proper reply to the other parties’ submissions and would not be considered. The Board also found that some of the Director’s evidence consisted of expert opinion evidence that was not tendered in accordance with the Board’s Rules, and it would not be considered.

    Turning to the merits of the amended permit, the Board concluded that the Director clearly considered air dispersion modelling before he issued the amended permit. The Board also found that Pinnacle’s public notice complied with the Public Notification Regulation, and did not need to refer to air dispersion modelling. Pinnacle’s air dispersion modelling report was publicly available at the Williams Lake Public Library for several months before the amended permit was issued. Pinnacle also held a public open house about the proposed permit amendment, which exceeded the requirements of the Public Notification Regulation. Mr. Pickford failed to ask about or obtain the publicly available information about the permit amendment application, including air dispersion modelling data.

    The Board also concluded that Mr. Pickford did not prove that the increase in PM2.5 emissions allowed by the amended permit would be harmful to human health. The Board held that the Director took a cautious approach when considering existing air quality in Williams Lake, the air dispersion modelling reports, and evaluations from qualified professionals indicating that the amended permit would not cause PM2.5 levels in the airshed to exceed provincial air quality objectives or materially add to PM2.5 exceedances caused by wildfires. The Director considered comprehensive technical analyses of the potential harm that the emissions may cause to human health and the environment. Mr. Pickford provided no evidence countering those analyses. There was no evidence that the emissions authorized by the amended permit would significantly contribute to ambient PM2.5 levels in the Williams Lake airshed.

    Finally, the Board found that Mr. Pickford did not prove that the monitoring requirements in the amended permit were inadequate or flawed.

    The appeal was dismissed.