An Alberta court on Friday rejected an environmental group’s challenge to the August-issued Alberta Utility Commission approval of a planned 500-MW supercritical coal-fired addition at the 150-MW H.R. Milner Generating Station in the Grande Cache area. The court’s decision paves the way for Maxim Power to begin construction of the controversial unit—the first coal plant built in the province in a decade.

The court rejected Ecojustice’s challenge, launched on behalf of the Pembina Institute, which had argued that the commission fast-tracked the project to avoid upcoming federal regulations that will require a 50% cut in emissions.

The commission failed to explain how allowing Maxim to avoid the new regulations is in the public interest, Ecojustice said in a statement. “Unfortunately, the court deemed the appeal as moot given that the [commission] issued a final approval of the plant expansion after the early interim decision. Justice Patricia Rowbotham stated that the court would not intervene to tell the [commission] when to set dates for its approvals,” the group said.

“We are now looking to federal environment minister Peter Kent to deliver on his pledge to ensure that the new federal regulations aren’t circumvented by companies like Maxim trying to sneak in under the wire,” said Chris Severson-Baker, spokesperson for the Pembina Institute. “Unless Maxim redesigns its project so that it can comply with the new federal regulations, we will continue to oppose it through every possible avenue.”

The new C$1.5 billion (US$1.53 billion) facility will include a pulverized coal combustion system, a high-efficiency supercritical high-pressure steam generator, a high-efficiency steam turbine generator, air emissions control equipment, a water treatment system, an electrical substation, and ancillary systems to support these major systems. Maxim had also said the plant will need more transmission facilities. The company expects to begin construction, pending financial arrangements, in the summer of 2012. The facility could come online as early as 2015.

Sources: POWERnews, Ecojustice, Pembina Institute