Carmen Driechel, community and Indigenous relations manager for Fortis BC, spoke to Cumberland council at a meeting on July 8. Photo by Mike Chouinard

Cumberland moves ahead on Fortis natural gas station

Project would use landfill as source for natural gas supply

The Village of Cumberland has agreed to help find a site in the community for a proposed vehicle filling station for Fortis BC.

The natural gas utility has been meeting with local and regional government representatives about establishing a station to use gas produced from landfill sites to help fuel vehicles, specifically the area’s waste collection vehicles. Staff made a recommendation for the Village to move ahead with the plan.

“I’m really happy to see this recommendation,” said Coun. Sean Sullivan, who followed with the motion approved by the rest of council.

The motion calls for staff to work with Fortis BC to find a location for a compressed natural gas (CNG) or renewable CNG (R-CNG) multi-fueling station in Cumberland, to consider a requirement for CNG or R-CNG to be in new waste collection contracts and for the matter of the multi-fueling station to be referred to the July 26 strategic planning session.

Carmen Driechel, community and Indigenous relations manager for Fortis BC, had spoken to council earlier in July about the plan and to ask for local support. With Cumberland the site of the region’s landfill, this week’s decision by council was perhaps not surprising. Technology now allows gas to be collected at landfill sites.

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“The conversation around climate action is obviously important to all of us,” she said at the July 8 meeting. “There are some immediate opportunities that we can work [on] together to make a difference in the Comox Valley…. Right now, there’s an opportunity with the federal government.”

Fortis distributes natural gas on the Island, Driechel said, and is looking for solutions as a transition to cleaner forms of energy. Transportation is one area where they can make changes in the present, she said, such as with medium-scale trucks, such as waste haulers. Province-wide, commercial transportation accounts for about a quarter of emissions, but in the Comox Valley, the number is closer to 60 per cent. By switching from diesel for waste haulers would help reduce emissions, she said, adding the trucks also are quieter when running on CNG and do not release particulate matter associated with other fuels.

“What we need to find is a place to put this station,” Driechel said. “These stations would be available to waste haulers but also to all of the other commercial fleets in your area.”

Eventually, she said the site could provide opportunities for hydrogen fueling or EV fast charging.

In an earlier email, she had said Fortis has the opportunity for funding through a Natural Resources Canada program to build a station, with the aim of transitioning from high-carbon fuels. Fortis, however, needed to hear from any local government quickly because of a requirement to submit an application to Natural Resources Canada by August.

At the end of Monday’s meeting, Cumberland resident and former mayoral candidate Eduardo Uranga had questions for council about the fueling station plan. He expressed doubt about how much of the fuel from the landfill would be used by waste haulers.

“This is something that needs to be addressed before they get a site,” he said. “They don’t even know if they have the gas.”

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