Coal towns need province, feds to work together on green energy, says Estevan mayor

Estevan’s mayor says Saskatchewan communities that depend on coal production need the province and federal government to put aside their differences to work toward a green energy future.

Task force releases recommendations on how to move to clean energy future

Estevan Mayor Roy Ludwig has worked in the community's coal mine for more than 40 years. He said adding more carbon capture and storage to power plants is a way to allow coal to be part of a clean energy future.

Estevan's mayor says Saskatchewan communities that depend on coal production need the province and federal government to put aside their differences to work toward a green energy future.

Mayor Roy Ludwig said both levels of government will have to work together to implement a new task force's recommendations on transitioning off coal. 

"We need more cohesiveness and we don't have that right now between the province and the feds," said Ludwig, pointing out the fractious relationship between the two governments that are currently locked in a legal challenge over the carbon levy.

Ludwig says the Saskatchewan government seems to want the federal government to handle the questions of how places like Estevan and Coronach move past coal production.

"But for us, for our communities, we need the province to be here in a meaningful way," he said, adding they also need more than "platitudes" from the federal government.

SaskPower's Boundary Dam 3 has carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology, allowing it to run beyond 2030. (SaskPower)

The Just Transition task force travelled through Saskatchewan, Alberta, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, the four provinces in which coal is still used, to collect feedback on the transition.

'We are afraid the town will die'

This week, the task force released its report with 10 recommendations, including providing training for coal workers, offering a pension bridging programs for workers retiring early due to the planned phase-out of coal and planning infrastructure projects for affected communities.

The task force noted people are rooted in their communities and can't always just pick up and leave for other work. 

"What will we do for work? Where will we live? What are our options? We are afraid the town will die," the report cited one Coronach resident as saying.

For Ludwig, it's a personal topic. He's worked at Estevan's coal mine for more than 40 years.

"Coal mining and power production is a large economic driver in our community and a very important economic driver," he said. "So if you're looking at 2030 transitioning out, then we'd have a lot of work to do between now and then."

Ludwig is a firm believer that carbon capture and storage must be part of the solution to reduce emissions, with one unit at the province's flagship power plant using what Ludwig calls "clean coal technology." 

"It's been successful and we're hoping that moving forward, we could get unit six and Shand moved over as well to clean coal technology," he said.

One of the barriers include the high cost of carbon capture and storage. Currently, the federal government has committed $25 to $30 million to Alberta and Saskatchewan to help with the transition, but Ludwig said that commitment will need to be more along the lines of $200 million to make the changes needed to help communities like his transition.

"We also feel that with the clean coal technology, we can continue to mine coal well past 2030, because it's environmentally friendly," he said. "As the technology gets better, we can make coal mining a part of the clean future."


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