Tories vow to keep Dalhousie power plant open

New Brunswick's opposition leader is promising to stop the closure of the NB Power generating station in Dalhousie.

The leader of New Brunswick's Progressive Conservatives promises to stop the closure of the NB Power generating station in Dalhousie if his party wins the provincial election in September.

David Alward was in Dalhousie Wednesday morning to take part in forming a human chain at the plant. The town is already reeling from the shutdown of the local AbitibiBowater Inc. pulp and paper mill in 2007.

In 2008, Olin Corp. announced it was shutting down its Canadian chemical manufacturing business in Dalhousie.

The company, which produced chemicals and ammunition, closed its chlorine, caustic soda and sodium hypochlorite operations in early June and its sodium chlorate operations in August.

The power plant is expected to close within the next year when its supply of cheap Venezuelan fuel runs out.

Alward said the shutdown should be delayed until experts look for alternative sources of fuel for the plant.

NB Power said it would be too expensive to retrofit the plant to burn a different fuel.

But Joseph Élias, the Tory candidate in the riding, said there are alternatives.

"We have looked at a variety of possibilities and everything we see clearly indicated we have solutions here," Élias said. "There are not just problems; there are clear solutions."

The Liberals quickly accused Alward of exploiting Dalhousie's problems to score political points.

Energy Minister Jack Keir said the utility and the government have done exactly what Alward is suggesting.

He said they have looked at every option for the plant, but none is affordable.

"He [Alward] either didn't talk to the experts of NB Power, who have already looked at all the alternatives for that Dalhousie plant, or he's doing this for purely political reasons," the energy minister said.

Keir said Alward is, in effect, promising to interfere with decision-making at NB Power, which is what Alward has criticized the Liberals of doing.