Mayor Ludwig on coal transition, federal and provincial funding updates

After Westmoreland Mining LLC's Estevan Mine announced the permanent layoffs on Feb. 18, many community members brought up questions about the City of Estevan's actions in regards to the upcoming changes.

The Mercury reached out to the city to clarify the situation. Mayor Roy Ludwig released updated information in regards to different projects that are underway or planned to stabilize the community.

The statement is as follows: 

The City of Estevan, through its economic development board, has been actively undertaking initiatives as part of its economic development agenda. This approach by the city is driven by the impact of the pending closure of SaskPower Boundary Dam Units 4 and 5. The city also set up a transition committee consisting of local stakeholders and federal representatives.

The City has been accessing funds from the Government of Canada under the Canada Coal Transition Initiative (CCTI) fund. This fund provides $25 million for Coal Transition initiatives in communities in Alberta and Saskatchewan affected by the coal phase-out and is administered by the Federal Agency known as Western Economic Diversification (WD). The objective of the CCTI is to mitigate the impacts of the coal phase-out to maintain the long-term viability of communities. Within the coal affected areas surrounding Estevan and Coronach, the following types of projects may be eligible for CCTI funding:

•          Innovation including activities leading to technology adoption, commercialization and skills development;

•          Business Development including activities to improve business productivity, foreign direct investment and enhanced market and trade development;

•          Community economic development including activities contributing to planning and strategies, development viability and economic adjustment;

•          Policy Advocacy and Co-ordination, including activities related to research and analysis.

To date, the City of Estevan has obtained funding for two projects:

1.         Coal transition Co-ordinator $260,000 for two years (2019-2021)

2.         Business Resource Center/Incubator $518,500 for three years (2020-2023)

The City of Estevan is currently preparing other projects to submit to WD for funding from the CCTI. These include:

•          Marketing and Promotion strategy for the City of Estevan;

•          Feasibility studies for Canola oil/ Hydrogenation-derived renewable diesel; and renewable energy center of excellence in co-operation with the Southeast Regional College;

•          Alfalfa processing facility;

•          Downtown revitalization and senior’s retention;

•          Miners resource centre for affected workers.

Additionally, the government of Canada, in the 2019 Budget, outlined a further $150 million Infrastructure Fund starting 2020-2021 for WD and Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency to support priority projects and economic diversification in impacted communities. The details of this fund are being finalized but the City of Estevan plans to submit additional projects for funding under this program.

The Government of Saskatchewan has also made available $10 million for the communities of Estevan and Coronach to be used for coal transition activities. The program design of that fund is being finalized and the City of Estevan hopes to be accessing those funds in the not too distant future.

These funds are for economic development initiatives at this time. Our priority continues to be clean coal technology on units 6 and Shand, along with the possibility of exploring nuclear energy to reach capacity on the existing power grid, leaving Estevan. 

"I hope this explains some of the initiatives that the City along with Provincial and Federal representatives, have been working on," said Ludwig. "If you have any ideas, concerns or suggestions, please contact myself, Jeff Ward, city manager or Dwight Fitz Bramble, economic development co-ordinator."

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