New Brunswick

NB Power will shutter Dalhousie power plant

The Dalhousie Generating Station will be closed and decommissioned, NB Power announced on Thursday.

Northern facility called no longer economically viable

NB Power will permanently close and decommission the Dalhousie Generating Station in northern New Brunswick, the utility's president announced on Thursday.

Gaetan Thomas, the president and chief executive officer of NB Power, said the Crown corporation spent two years investigating other fuel sources for the generating station.

Thomas said the 300-megawatt facility is no longer "economically viable."

"NB Power's mandate to provide reliable and cost-effective electricity makes the closure of the Dalhousie station a necessity," Thomas said in a statement.

The Dalhousie station, which first opened in 1969, was upgraded in 1994. It once burned Orimulsion, but that contract with Venezuela's state-owned oil company recently ended.

While the facility's design is good until 2025, it is too costly to remain open and burn oil at the plant.

This isn't the first time the Dalhousie plant has been put on the chopping block.

The former Liberal government had announced the generating station would be shuttered as a part of the failed deal to sell NB Power to Hydro-Quebec.

The Progressive Conservatives, while in opposition, said they would keep the station open.

However, Energy Minister Craig Leonard said in April 2011 that it would be difficult to find an affordable way to avoid closing the station.

On Thursday, Leonard said an exhaustive search was done to try and keep the doors open.

"As a government we committed to leaving no stone unturned in our search to find an alternative use for the Dalhousie Generating Station," Leonard said in a statement.

"I want to assure the people of Dalhousie, we looked at every option available but unfortunately, we have reached a point where it is no longer economically feasible or in the best interests of all New Brunswick ratepayers and businesses to continue the station's operation."

Leonard is the province's acting energy minister until he takes over as the permanent energy and mines minister in October.

Dalhousie-Restigouche East Liberal MLA Donald Arseneault said Premier David Alward owes people in his community an apology for the decision.

"Here is a person who said he promised everything and anything to everyone to get elected. He came on two occasions to the gate of NB Power, holding hand with employees," Arseneault said.

"He made the employees believe they had a future at NB Power in Dalhousie. I said from the get-go he was wrong to do that."

The Liberal MLA also took issue with Leonard's characterization of how hard they looked for a fuel replacement.

"When I hear Craig Leonard say they didn't leave any stone unturned. Don't you think that we looked at every opportunity and there was no opportunity," he said.

Arseneault also said he'd like to see NB Power leave a "financial legacy" behind for the northern town. He said in Minto, NB Power invested in community college courses.

Environmental review coming

The facility will not be closed immediately.

NB Power must conduct a full environmental impact assessment.

NB Power will also continue to pay the station's full property taxes to the Town of Dalhousie during the decommissioning.

The remaining 25 NB Power staff at the northern power plant will be offered other jobs within the Crown corporation.

Dalhousie has been hit hard by a series of job losses in recent years.

Dalhousie's AbitibiBowater mill shut its doors in January 2008, throwing 330 people in the town of 3,600 out of work. Two months later, Olin Corp. closed two of its chemical plants, eliminating another 100 jobs.