The message was clear and fairly concise.
SaskPower, and the provincial government will not be making any definite decision regarding a clean coal project at Boundary Dam without a federal blessing. They already have a few federal dollars, not enough, but a few. But they need that approval too.
As Robert Watson, SaskPower's president stated last week, electrical power generating practices are a highly regulated industry and without a stamp from the feds, the Unit No. 3 pilot project will have to be put in an indefinite holding pattern when it comes to the installation of anything that resembles a carbon capture component.
The refurbishment of the 150 megawatt No. 3 generator is moving ahead. That's the good news part of the story. About $360 million is to be expended to make that happen. That will extend the life of this generator by another 30 years. If that decision hadn't been made, then No. 3 would have been destined for the scrap heap, like Units 1 and 2 are soon to be. That would have placed a lot of Boundary Dam employees on Uneasy Street for sure. They can now rest a bit easier, but only a bit.
Without a greenhouse gas collection component in place, the chances of Units 3 through 6 getting to that 30-year time limit is shaky at best.
Pretty well everyone who has done any studying on the issue of thermal power generation knows the technology to capture CO2 and other noxious gases is in place but the regulatory bodies apparently prefer to do a bit more hemming and hawing. That's what they excel at.
The federal agencies have proclaimed that they are not prepared to move forward with Canadian greenhouse gas edicts until their counterparts in the United States make the first move. Nobody is going to accuse them of being bold leaders, they declare.
Unfortunately the American agencies that are tending to the environmental files are moving sideways or backward these days not forward. They too, are experts in hemming and hawing. Why spend time on a few sweating polar bears when you have Tea Parties and sub-prime mortgages to sweat over.
In the meantime, the window of opportunity for a world-leading carbon capture project just two miles south of Estevan is closing rapidly.
If decisions aren't made soon, all the pre-planning, budgeting, engineering and logistical inputs will be dated, and of increasingly limited value which will, in turn, add to the $1.2 billion cost of the project.
That sounds like a huge price tag, but so is the price we'll pay for alternative solutions, if, and when, they come at all.
So far it seems our provincial mandarins have only provided short-term, gap-filling measures to meet the steadily growing demand for electrical power in Saskatchewan. And they aren't necessarily environmentally clean.
If it isn't going to be clean coal, then what will it be?
We better get an answer within a month or two, or we'll all be in that well- known creek with no proper means of propulsion.