Thursday, August 29, 2013
Muscling the Municipalities
to its own beat on incinerators
Released by Dermod Travis,
or to use the more politically correct term "waste", is big
business. Really big. It can also be a messy business, particularly
when politicians get involved.
So no big surprise then
that the left hand doesn't seem to care what the right hand is doing
at Metro Vancouver when it comes to regional waste management.
On the one hand Lower Mainland municipalities have policies in place
to divert up to 80 per cent of waste by reducing, reusing and
recycling and on the other hand Metro Vancouver has just
short-listed 10 proposals to increase its incineration capacity by
370,000 tonnes per year through a new $500 million plus
And make no mistake, a second incinerator is being fast-tracked by
Metro Vancouver officials.
The regional authority wants to have a site selected by 2015 and the
fuse lit by 2018. One site under consideration is on Tsawwassen
First Nation treaty lands, two others are on Vancouver Island.
Already the startling dichotomy between Metro Vancouver's two
approaches – recycling versus burn baby burn – is raising fears that
the region could be put in the bizarre position of having to import
waste just to feed the insatiable thirst of a second incinerator.
Which may explain why Metro Vancouver is considering a bylaw next
week that some might call a thinly veiled attempt to corner the
market on garbage by regulating where waste management firms can
In its rush to incinerate, Metro Vancouver is also running roughshod
over numerous conditions set down by the provincial government in
2011, 2012 and again earlier this year.
First, there's that pesky little matter about being a good
One of the conditions was that before an incinerator could proceed
“at a minimum Metro Vancouver must establish a working group with
the Fraser Valley Regional District (FVRD) on the potential impact
to the (common) airshed due to additional waste-to-energy capacity.”
Regardless of how ever well-intentioned they were meant to be, the
recent dog and pony shows put on by Metro Vancouver officials in the
Fraser Valley do not substitute for consultation or the
establishment of a working group with the FVRD.
Then there are questions over the economic viability of a $500
The B.C. government's conditions include the requirement that
“communities must target 70 per cent waste diversion through
reducing, reusing and recycling before they consider waste-to-energy
as an alternative to landfilling.”
A condition that raises an obvious question: if the target is met
will there be enough garbage left over to feed not only Metro
Vancouver's existing 280,000 tonnes per year incinerator, but a
second one as well?
Keep in mind that Canadians throw away more garbage than any other
country in the developed world.
According to a report by the Conference Board of Canada, we produced
777 kilograms of waste per capita in 2009, with more than 75 per
cent of it ending up in landfills or incinerators. That's a lot of
potential for recycling before incineration should even be on the
table as an option.
But the most critical condition that the B.C. government set down
was in 2012 when new regulations were adopted that require all
proposed waste-to-energy facilities in the Lower Mainland or Fraser
Valley to go through a full and mandatory environmental assessment.
And in case that point was missed on anyone, it was reiterated this
past February when then BC environment minister Terry Lake informed
the legislature that the government had been “very clear that if an
in-region, waste-to-energy facility is considered by Metro
Vancouver, it will undergo a full B.C. environmental assessment
process and full consultation with the Fraser Valley Regional
Lighting the fuse by 2018 is beginning to look a lot like wishful
Ironically, it was only 10 years ago that Metro Vancouver in its
then incarnation as the Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD)
opposed plans for a gas-fired power plant in Washington state due to
“its proximity to a major residential area, the City of Abbotsford”
and “the adverse health impacts of plant emissions on local
But that was then and this is now.
This time Metro Vancouver seems intent on marching to the beat of
its own drummer paying only lip service to its neighbours and – if
it can get away with it – the province.
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