Coal-fired … greenhouses?

Greenhouse panelsThis would be funny if it weren’t so infuriating. Greenhouses in the Fraser Valley near Vancouver are growing food that doesn’t grow there naturally. To run the greenhouses, they used to use natural gas; now, they use coal, and the situation is objectionable to a lady who reportedly led the fight against a natural-gas generating plant just across the border in Washington.

Wood- and coal-burning pose a more immediate health threat to Fraser Valley residents than global climate change, says Patricia Ross, chair of the Fraser Valley Regional District’s air quality committee.

But there is no provincial monitoring or enforcement of provincial regulations around wood- or coal-burning facilities, especially important in the confined airshed of the Fraser Valley, she says.

“It’s great that there’s so much attention being paid to reducing greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change,” she says. But the health risks stemming from the fine particulates produced from burning wood and coal are more immediate, she says.

Ross, who led valley residents’ fight against Sumas Energy 2 – along with MLA Barry Penner, now B.C’s Environment Minister – is issuing a call to action to lobby the government for changes.

Interestingly, the greenhouses actually fix carbon dioxide in the plants they grow. The problem is the smoky particulates you get from burning coal. Natural gas produces effectively none, but coal is now cheaper to get carbon dioxide out of. So’s a sort of wood-pellet product made from sawmill leavings, created in a process devised by a B.C. company that’s received subsidies because its technology cuts greenhouse gases. Particulates? Well…

The Canadian Press reports that the alleged coal-burning greenhouses don’t have permits, so they’re breaking the rules and the government is onto them. So that’s something.

(Hat-tip: TreeHugger. Photo credit: Flickr/Jan Tik.)

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