KELLY SINOSKI, Vancouver Sun, July 30, 2010
Metro Vancouver will go ahead with plans to investigate burning the region's garbage -- but not necessarily in Metro Vancouver.
Members of Metro's sewage and drainage district voted 63-49 in favour today of investigating options for a mass-burn incinerator or waste "conversion technologies" such as anaerobic digestion or gasification, both in and out of the region, to deal with 500,000 tonnes of waste that is now being dumped at the Cache Creek landfill.
The decision followed hours of debate, including the an earlier rejection of the same motion. The directors also threw out a recommendation by Metro chief administrative officer Johnny Carline to build an incinerator in the region, which he said would be cheaper to build and operate a facility here rather than trucking the garbage outside, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and would give the region financial benefits in terms of selling heat and energy from the facility.
He warned if Metro didn't pursue "additional waste to energy" in region, it could then investigate a facility outside the region or, in default, expand the Cache Creek dump.
The plan will now go to Environment Minister Barry Penner. If it's approved Metro will send out requests for proposals with the hope some sort of waste to energy facility could be built by 2015. The Cache Creek dump is slated to close in 2016.
The incinerator was proposed as part of the region's solid waste management plan to dispose of the 500,000 tonnes of garbage that are now being trucked to the Cache Creek dump.
But directors were split on whether an incinerator should be built in the region, outside or not at all. Burnaby Coun. Sav Dhaliwal said Metro should be build an incinerator in the region "because it's our garbage."
He said Metro should only look at other options if no community wants an incinerator or if Environment Minister Barry Penner rejects the plan.
"For us to really think the health risk doesn't belong in this region . .
. is playing games not in our backyard. This is our garbage; we should be dealing with it."
Yet Port Coquitlam Mayor Greg Moore and Port Moody Mayor Joe Trasolini argued against considering the incinerator in the region, saying it should be taking into consideration the concerns of their neighbours in the Fraser Valley, who voted unanimously against the incinerator proposal because of fears of increased air pollution in their unique airshed.
Trasolini asked why Metro spent so much time consulting the public -- 35 meetings were held -- if it was just going to base its decisions on science.
Surrey Coun. Judy Villeneuve agreed with the two Tri-Cities mayors, saying she would prefer there not be any mass burn incinerators in the region.
She also suggested any project be "built on conversion technologies."
Vancouver Coun. Heather Deal also sought to define "waste to energy" as conversion technologies such as gasification and anaerobic digestion but excluding incineration or new landfills. Her amendment was supported by the rest of Vancouver council, including Mayor Gregor Robertson, who said:
"This is a significant economic risk to us; it's a financial risk," he said. "This is betting on one technology for decades to come. There are many other technologies available."
But the suggestions was shot down by the rest of the board after Surrey Coun. Marvin Hunt argued limiting the number of technologies will hinder a fair process for anyone putting forward their proposals for ways to deal with Metro's garbage.
"I want to see to these conversion technologies here in the Lower Mainland," he said, but added he wants to be able to compare the costs to determine the best move for the region.
New Westminster Mayor Wayne Wright noted his community has been living beside the Burnaby incinerator for 20 years and he didn't even know it was there. He urged the board to move ahead with the solid waste management plan, which has been in the works for decades.
Vancouver Coun. Tim Stevenson, who voted against the proposal, questioned why Metro would even be considering shipping its garbage outside the region.
Metro Vancouver produces about 1.4 million tonnes of garbage every year.
The solid-waste management plan aims to raise recycling rates from 55 per cent of garbage today to 70 per cent by 2015.
All the directors agreed with the plan to boost recycling and diversion rates across with the region but noted that there needs to be some way to dispose of 1.2 million tonnes of waste that can't be recycled.
The plan will now go to provincial Environment Minister Barry Penner for final approval. Penner has previously said that Metro has other options on the table including a proposal by Covanta Energy to build an incinerator in Gold River on Vancouver Island and expanding the Cache Creek landfill.
But Carline noted that Penner must make his decision based on scientific information and not as MLA for Chilliwack-Hope.