While B.C.’s auditor general has rapped the provincial government for pouring money into Pacific Carbon Trust, Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows taxpayers have only put nominal amounts into the trust.
In 2011, the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows school board paid $102,850 into the trust, according to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.
A West Kootenay forest reserve called Darkwoods and a flaring elimination project by EnCana Corp., at its Fort Nelson natural gas operations accounted for most of the carbon credits paid by the government’s agency, the Pacific Carbon Trust.
In a report last week, Auditor General John Doyle said both projects would have happened anyways.
The Pacific Carbon Trust was set up as a vehicle to ensure government operations were carbon neutral. In other words, they didn’t produce a net gain of carbon dioxide or greenhouse gases.
Provincial and local governments, health authorities and school districts were required to buy carbon offset credits equal to the greenhouse gas emissions from their buildings and vehicles, with the money invested in carbon-reducing projects.
According to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows school board spent $102,850 in 2011, while the Fraser Health Authority, of which Maple Ridge is a part, paid about a million in the same time period. The school district was later reimbursed.
According to the school district’s report, the school district produced 3,834 tonnes of greenhouse gases in 2011.
But in the same year, the school district applied to have 4,114 tonnes offset, meaning the school district was carbon neutral in that year.
However, school board officials weren’t available to confirm if the Canadian Taxpayers Federation number was accurate or to provide current figures.
Neither Pitt Meadows nor Maple Ridge have been required to pay into the trust.
Laura Benson, manager of sustainability and corporate planning with the District of Maple Ridge, said that carbon offsets are intended to be used by people who want to cancel their own greenhouse gas emissions by paying for some other action that will reduce greenhouse gases. By doing so, they become carbon neutral.
“We haven’t paid into the Pacific Carbon Trust. Our approach has been to put money toward our own assets, like the Leisure Centre, district vehicles, the fire halls, to make them more energy efficient,” she said.
“That not only reduces greenhouse gases right here in Maple Ridge, it also reduces our energy bills, saving tax dollars into the future.”
Maple Ridge did partner with a company, Community Ecosystem Restoration Initiative, in 2005 to reduce greenhouse gases. That involved planting thousands of indigenous trees on district land in areas where invasive species were taking over, at no cost to the district.
According to the Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation, B.C. universities paid $4.46 million into the Pacific Carbon Trust in 2011. B.C.’s 60 school districts paid a total of $5.36 million the same year, and the province’s six health authorities paid $5.79 million.
Environment Minister Terry Lake said the government rejected Doyle’s conclusions, and stands by the outside experts who were called on to validate the carbon offset investments.
– with Black Press files