When talk turns to air quality in Prince George we often think of four usual culprits … the pulp mills, the oil refinery, road dust, and smoke from woodstoves.
And they are the biggies. Permitted users, which would be your pulp mills and refineries, and road dust each account for 18 per cent of fine particulates in the air, according to the Prince George Air Improvement Roundtable Phase III Implementation Report. Residential heating accounts for seven per cent of the fine particulates.
But there’s another big supplier of fine particulates to the Prince George airshed that is rarely talked about … locomotives.
While motorists can be fined for letting their vehicle idle within city limits, CN is given a free-ride. At any given time, on any given day, there are locomotives in the CN yard sitting their idling.
According to the PG AIR report, locomotives contribute 11 per cent of the fine particulates found in the Prince George airshed.
It’s not so much the fact that they are there. We all understand that industrial activities in and around the city will contribute to the amount of fine particulates in the air and that they have to be able to operate. We can’t simply ask them to go away.
But what is disappointing is how dreadfully little CN has done to address the issue of locomotives idling in the heart of downtown.
According to the report, CN’s overall climate change policy scored 98 per cent on the on
2012 Dow Jones Sustainability Index. More recently, it funded the CN Carbon Footprint Reduction program in partnership with PG AIR, UNBC, and the Chamber of Commerce which helps other businesses identify ways to reduce their carbon footprint.
In comparison, Canfor did a major revamp on its electrostatic precipitator at PG Pulp, which resulted in a 95 percent reduction in emissions in 2015 and a 50 per cent reduction in 2016; it replaced the atmospheric black liquor fibre filter at Intercon; installed an ash reinjection system at PG Pulp, which resulted in a 40 per cent reduction of ash going to the landfill; it revamped its recovery boiler at Northwood; hydroseeded 20 acres of property to reduce road dust as well at treating 12 kilometres of road with calcium chloride to also reduce dust.
Over at Husy Oil, it upgraded its wastewater treatment plant to reduce odours and emissions; it installed a catalyst deSOx additive, which reduced sulphur dioxide emissions by 70 per cent; upgraded its heater; instituted a leak detection program to limit emissions of volatile organic compounds, which resulted in reducing VOC emissions by 70 tonnes per year; instituted dust suppression programs; upgraded its wastewater treatment plant; improved monitoring and control systems on heaters to reduce fuel usage. All in, Husky has invested more than $100 million to meet Environment Canada regulations.
And they’re not alone.
Carrier Lumber replaced its cyclone, instituted idling restrictions, started using diesel with ethanol added; upgraded it planer and ventilation system.
Columbia Bitulithic has invested in new technology, instituted dust suppression and anti-idling programs and installed a variable frequency fan to improve energy efficiency.
And, of course, local government has been very involved. The city has built its District Energy System, purchased electric vehicles, instituted its Free Fare for Clean Air on city transit, instituted early sweeping of city roads in the spring, and is recycling asphalt.
The regional district has also purchased electric vehicle, instituted its woodstove exchange program, and has dust suppression and anti-idling programs.
UNBC has heated by a bioenergy plant and employs an electrostatic precipitator to reduce emissions.
The list goes on.
Sadly, CN’s contributions to the list are few and far between. In addition, they don’t address one of the biggies when it comes to air quality in Prince George … idling locomotives.