by Norm Kalmanovitch, P. Geoph., Lead Author of our 2015 report “Burning Questions” and spokesperson in our “Burning Questions” video.

On Jan. 30, 2017, the Financial Post published an article by U of A professor Warren Kindzierski. P. Eng., disputing air quality/coal emissions claims of the NDP government. On Feb. 1, 2017, Dr. Vipond, a coal phase-out proponent and representative of CAPE, tweeted us his blog response. Here is our response to him, prepared by Norm Kalmanovitch, P. Geoph.

Note: Friends of Science Society is an independent non-profit funded by members. We do not represent any industry sector and have no corporate memberships.

Air Quality Facts

According to the World Health Organization, the safe maximum safe level of exposure to PM2.5 is 25µg/m3 and annual maximum is 10µg/m3

Guideline values

10 μg/m3 annual mean
25 μg/m3 24-hour mean

20 μg/m3 annual mean
50 μg/m3 24-hour mean

PM2.5 air pollution, mean annual exposure (micrograms per cubic meter)

Brauer, M. et al. 2016, for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2015.

This study from the World Bank shows that the world’s PM2.5 increased from 38.031µg/m3 in 1990 to 42.274µg/m3 in 2015

Canada’s PM2.5 level decreased from 7.8µg/m3 in 1990 to 7.2µg/m3 in 2015

Since the WHO standard for safe annual mean is 10µ/m3, and Canada is below the safe standard we do not have to reduce our PM2.5 but the world does because the average level is over four times the safe standard!


Environment Canada did a study of PM2.5 in Canada and found that Alberta as part of the Prairies and Northern Ontario grouping remained below the national standard of 10 μg/m3



The PM10 Standard for safe annual mean is 20 μg/m3 annual mean. This report shows Calgary at 9μg/m3 and Edmonton at 11μg/m3 so both major cities in Alberta are well below the safe standard of 20 μg/m3 annual mean.

Toronto and Montreal which do not rely on any coal-fired power generation were worse than both Alberta cities powered by coal!


Select cities in Canada

  • Whitehorse: 3
  • Fredricton: 6
  • Victoria: 7
  • Vancouver: 8
  • Halifax: 8
  • Ottawa: 9
  • Calgary: 9
  • Regina: 9
  • Moncton: 10
  • Edmonton: 11
  • Toronto: 13
  • Montreal: 19


Source: Environment Canada


Screenshot example of real-time map of world PM2.5 emissions available online. PM2.5 concentrations do fluctuate according to weather conditions, wildfires, industrial activity. 


China is often referenced as an example of the horrors of coal use. The reason that China has such high levels of pollution is that they do not employ the same level of pollution control on coal-fired power plants that we do here in Alberta.


This picture of a coal-fired power plant in China shows the steam coming out of the hyperbolic cooling towers and steam CO2which are non-polluting and PM2.5 and PAH pollution coming out of one of the main stacks.


Further, China also has a popular charcoal-grilled street-food culture that contributes to large volumes of noxious emissions at ground level.


Major cities like Beijing with 11.51 million people experience exaggerated “smoke from neighbour’s bar-be-que” effect from street vendors. China has imposed bans from time to time.

Likewise, rural China residents cook and heat their homes by burning biomass – dung or wood – which is responsible for deaths and significant pollution globally.



Consequently, while old or poor emissions-managed coal-fired power plants in China certainly contribute huge volumes of pollution, ground level pollution is significantly affected by both charcoal grilling in urban centers and biomass burning for cooking and heating in rural areas.

The experience in China is so far removed from how air quality and industrial pollution is managed in Alberta, that should not be used as an indictment against modern/supercritical coal-fired power in Alberta.  On the topic of biomass, let us also look at Alberta inequities.

Biomass uses wood by-products and wood pellets for fuel which produce both PM2.5 and PAH pollution when burned. Biomass power plants are not monitored so we have no way to tell what level of these pollutants is emitted from this Boyle Biomass power plant. We do know that some pollution is emitted because these power plants do not have the same level of pollution control found on all Alberta coal-fired power plants.


Note in this Huffington Post article there is no mention of any pollution controls but there is mention of “carbon credits” because this biomass is deemed to be “renewable energy” which is both excluded from the carbon tax and benefits from receiving carbon credits

On an annual basis ALPAC brings in $14 to $18 million from selling power to the grid. They also generate carbon credits and make about $2 million a year from that and get another $7 million a year from the Alberta Bio-Producer credit program. This is on top of $350 million a year in pulp sales.


On the other side of the ledger is our coal-fired power plants which pay a hefty carbon tax for the CO2 pollution that they emit with this tax going to subsidize biomass power carbon credits for putting out real pollution!!!

Genesee Generating Station

Alberta’s Genesee coal-fired power plant.