Moose Jaw mayor calls on Ottawa to drop potentially more costly regulations for new power plant

Moose Jaw Mayor Fraser Tolmie wants to see a planned $700M natural gas power plant grandfathered under existing, potentially less costly regulations.
Moose Jaw Mayor Fraser Tolmie wants to see a planned $700M natural gas power plant grandfathered under existing, potentially less costly regulations. Sean Stetner / Global News

Moose Jaw Mayor Fraser Tolmie is calling on the federal government to allow a planned $700-million natural gas power plant to be grandfathered into current regulations.

“This is a $700-million project for the city of Moose Jaw. That $700 million invested in this community translates to grocery stores, rent, homeowners, restaurants, bars, movie theatres, our stores, our shops,” Tolmie said.

“So we’re going to be fighting for this. This is something that’s important for us. As I said, we fought for this project.”

The mayor said he sent a letter detailing his request to the prime minister’s office a few weeks ago, but has not heard back.

SaskPower formally announced plans in December to build the 350-megawatt combined-cycle natural gas power plant in Moose Jaw’s southeast industrial park.

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However, on June 28 the federal government announced new regulations for natural gas power plants. Essentially, any plant that is operational after 2021 will have to be
zero-emission by 2030 or pay regulatory fees.

When delivering SaskPower’s annual report, Minister Dustin Duncan said they knew changes were coming and plans for the Moose Jaw power plant were developed under draft regulations.

READ MORE: SaskPower prioritizing maintenance of aging infrastructure

Duncan voiced frustration that he was in meetings with federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna on June 27, and there was no indication these regulations would be revealed the next day.

The federal government said these regulations are meant to spur innovation.

Tolmie said Ottawa was first informed of early plans for the power plant back in 2017, and wants to see it grandfathered under current rules.

Other new combined-cycle natural gas plants, like the Chinook Power Station being built near Swift Current, will not fall under the new regulations as it is expected to come online later this year.

READ MORE: Chinook Power Station contractor suing SaskPower for payment

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A SaskPower spokesperson said the Crown corporation is still analyzing how the new regulations might impact future decisions. An announcement will be made once they arrive a conclusion.

Tolmie stressed the need for the development of natural gas power as a baseload option for Saskatchewan’s electrical generation. This is a view shared by SaskPower as they introduce more renewable options and conventional coal is phased out.

Until a final decision is reached, Tolmie said he will keep pushing for the grandfathering of the planned Moose Jaw natural gas plant.

“I don’t like to lose, so I’m not going to be thinking that way right now,” Tolmie said. “We’re going to continue to do the right things; be diplomatic, advocate and wait for what we believe will be a good response.”