So many new challenges for SE2 vanquisher
FVRD chair responsible for booming area twice size of P.E.I.
For someone who says she doesn't like fighting, Patricia Ross throws one heck of a punch (figuratively speaking) when Fraser Valley air quality is threatened.
And now the veteran Abbotsford councillor, who gained notoriety several years ago by leading a successful campaign to halt construction of the Sumas Energy 2 power plant in neighbouring Washington state, has entered a much bigger ring.
Elected last December as chair of the Fraser Valley Regional District, Ross is responsible for a rapidly growing region stretching between Abbotsford and Boston Bar.
At 13,900 square kilometres, the FVRD is more than twice the size of Prince Edward Island. Between 2003 and 2031, its population is projected to grow by 82 per cent to nearly 500,000.
Taken together, its massive size (seven electoral districts and six
But, thanks to having heavily populated Metro Vancouver next door, and the Lower Mainland's prevailing westerly winds, Ross has inherited the added challenge of defending her region's air quality.
That task is complicated by Metro's dilemma of coping with the 3.6 million tonnes of solid waste its 2.3 million people produce annually.
While more than half its garbage is recycled, Metro must still dispose of the rest.
And now that the B.C. government announced in Tuesday's throne speech that exporting B.C. waste to the U.S. will not be allowed, the limits to Metro's waste-disposal options increase. And there is increased urgency for Metro to build up to six waste-to-energy incineration plants to burn roughly 600,000 tonnes of garbage annually.
Consequently, Valley politicians and taxpayers now see even darker shades of red.
Despite Metro's claims that these technologically sophisticated plants, which use the garbage as fuel to produce electricity, create only "negligible" pollution, many in the Valley don't accept that.
They say their counter-arguments are armed with equally strong scientific and technical claims that Metro's studies haven't counted all the toxins that such plants produce.
"Garbage is the dirtiest fuel on the planet," Ross says. "Metro's studies on this technology are flawed.
"They only talk about pollution averages but those plants will produce a wider variety of toxins than the natural-gas-fired SE2 would have. The plant byproducts must still be dumped in landfills."
She's disappointed that Metro backed the FVRD in its six-year fight against SE2 but now is taking the opposite position.
That mistrust may be reflected in other inter-regional district issues, such as transit.
The FVRD has no desire, for example, to merge with TransLink, even though Ross says co-operation between the two must be fostered.
And, as the new chair, she's closely following a Valley transit study by Victoria and the FVRD that includes the option of using the old Interurban rail line for modern light-rail transportation.
Promoting regional tourism, raising the FVRD's profile, and managing rapid residential, commercial and industrial development, so it doesn't overrun the Valley's key agricultural sector, are also major issues for Ross.
It's more than enough to keep Ross in her new political ring.Posted by Arthur Caldicott on 27 Aug 2009