Pellet plant opponents consider legal action

Opponents of a Chase pellet plant say they would consider a class-action lawsuit against proponent Pinnacle Renewable Energy Group if the project were to proceed.

"If you have a baseline of what your air quality is, and they come in and they change that air quality in a negative way, then they are going to be accountable to everyone who is breathing that air," Jocelyn Nash said Sunday.

"It makes it terribly foolhardy for industry to come in and pollute to their heart's content."

Nash is one of many Chase area residents dismayed by village council's decision to rezone residential land on Aylmer Road to industrial so the $40-million wood-pellet plant can move forward.

She and the project's other adversaries vowed not to give up the fight, claiming the operation will pollute the environment and harm residents and the region.

Village council made its decision at the end of November. Since then, Nash has been in touch with West Coast Environmental Law and representatives from the David Suzuki Foundation, which have expressed interest in the Chase pellet plant.

Nash said West Coast Environmental Law would subsidize the lawsuit's legal cost and connect the opponents with legal council.

"Which is rather nice," she said.

And Nash will follow up with Alaya Boisvert of the David Suzuki Foundation this month about a new, national campaign the foundation will spearhead.

Called Right to a Healthy Environment, the campaign has a long-term goal of incorporating the right to a healthy environment into the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

In an email to Nash, Boisvert states the foundation wants to meet with community members about what's at stake when environmental rights are violated. She told Nash the pellet plant is a good candidate for the project, which is not yet ready to begin.

"Their premise is that all Canadians across Canada should be constitutionally entitled to a clean environment and they've taken an interest in our file," said Nash.

There has been little movement on the wood-pellet plant since the meeting at the end of the November, and village staff maintains there is a chance the project won't proceed.

As for the potential lawsuit, Chase Mayor Ron Anderson wouldn't be surprised if opponents go down the road.

"The people who are behind that are determined that they will have their way and the majority of the community won't," he said.

Anderson believes 70 per cent of Chase residents are in favour of the pellet plant. Those who don't support it are entitled to their opinion, he said.

"There's always differences of opinion and I respect that. I really respect that," he said.

The plant is expected to generate a minimum of $75,000 in tax revenue and employ 25 people directly.

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