EDMONTON — Doctors lined up Monday to praise Alberta's decision to phase out coal-fired power, but companies that burn the coal to produce more than half the province's power were still in the dark about the plan's effects.
Environment Minister Shannon Phillips appeared with officials from the Alberta Medical Association, the Alberta Lung Association, the Asthma Society of Canada and the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment.
They all pointed to a study suggesting respiratory disease from burning coal costs provincial health care $300 million a year. Power plants are responsible for about one-third of all the sulphur dioxide released in Alberta, said Dr. Joe Vipond of Physicians for the Environment.
"As soon as plants close down, we have a commensurate decrease in some of these pollutants. By focusing on these plants, we can make a huge impact.''
But Phillips had few answers for industry. She wouldn't say if there will be money set aside for a settlement with companies who are losing profits because of an early shutdown. Talks have not begun, she said, but the government has been in touch with many of the companies involved.
"By focusing on these plants, we can make a huge impact.''
"We are negotiating an orderly phase out and transition of our electricity system in a way that is fair to the workers, fair to communities and fair to companies,'' she said. "In the coming days and weeks we'll have more to say about it.''
Capital Power, which owns at least part of four coal-fired plants, declined a request from The Canadian Press to discuss the changes.
"We will continue to assess today's policy announcements in detail,'' the company said in statement released Sunday.
"While the government's retirement schedule for coal generation is substantially more aggressive than that proposed by Capital Power, we're encouraged that the climate ... plan incorporates policy approaches that are consistent with our recommendations.''
Capital Power's plants have power purchase agreements with the government that end around 2030, when coal-fired plants are to be a thing of the past. It was expected, however, that those plants would be operating for much longer.
TransAlta, which has a stake in five plants, also declined an interview. Most of TransAlta's fleet was expected to retire well within the government's timeline.
"We're encouraged that the climate ... plan incorporates policy approaches that are consistent with our recommendations."
We'll be by the phone, said a Sunday release from TransAlta head Dawn Farrell.
"The premier has committed to an orderly transition that ensures system reliability and price stability for our customers ... and that the province's policies will not unnecessarily strand capital,'' she said.
"We are looking forward to working with the government-appointed negotiator to achieve these objectives over the next few months to ensure a fair outcome for our stakeholders.''
Even the industry association, the Independent Power Producers Society of Alberta, said it wouldn't be able to address the plan for a few days.
— Follow Bob Weber on Twitter at @row1960
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EDMONTON — Alberta's NDP government tabled its first budget Tuesday. A look at some of the winners and losers: Files from The Canadian Press
Winners — Low-income families: New Alberta Child Benefit to assist families earning less than $41,220. Parents to get up to $1,100 for one child and as much as $550 each for three additional children. Family Tax Credit to be enhanced so more lower- and middle-class families can get access to it and draw from it for longer periods. Files from The Canadian Press
Winners — Employers and people looking for work: A two-year job incentive program is to give companies of all sizes, as well as non-profits, $5,000 for each new job they create. Meant to support 27,000 new jobs each year. New measures to improve access to capital for small- and medium-sized businesses. Files from The Canadian Press
Losers — Drinkers and smokers: The cost of cigarettes goes up by $5 a carton. A case of 12 beers goes up 24 cents and a bottle of wine is increased by 18 cents. Files from The Canadian Press
Losers — The insured: There is an insurance premium tax hike of one per cent. Files from The Canadian Press
Losers — Politicians: Cabinet ministers, political staff and members of the legislature are to be under a salary freeze for the remainder of the current four-year legislature term. Files from The Canadian Press
Winners — The sick and those in need: More money for services to help children and families in need, including $15 million to support women's shelters. Operational funding for health is to increase to almost $21 billion by 2018. Files from The Canadian Press
Winners — Construction workers: The province plans to spend $34 billion over the next five years to ramp up construction for roads, schools, hospitals and other facilities. Files from The Canadian Press
Winners — Students: There is a two-year tuition freeze for post-secondary students. An additional 380 teachers, plus 150 support staffers, to be hired for grade schools. Files from The Canadian Press
Losers — Future taxpayers: Starting next year, the province plans to begin borrowing for the first time in 20 years to manage its day-to-day spending. Debt for capital is expected to hit $36.6 billion by 2018. Files from The Canadian Press