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This Article is part of the Up in Smoke special report See the full report

Metro Van and Fraser Valley Regional District butt heads over incinerator plan

Second in a three-month series.

(Page 3 of 3)

The Port Melon proposal comes from Aquilini Renewable Energy, owned by Vancouver Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini while other proponents include some of the biggest names in the waste-to-energy field, including Covanta and Wheelabrator/Urbaser. Many have hired lobbyists to push for a new incinerator and are meeting with municipal and provincial politicians and Metro Van staff in an attempt to influence the final decision.

“I don’t see anything wrong with that. It’s how you get respected," says Brodie, adding that there are "huge dollars" involved for companies on this issue.

Those lobbyists include some well known names from BC’s political scene, including former Chilliwack MLA John Les lobbying for Belkorp. In Victoria, BC political insider Brad Zubyk is registered as a lobbyist for Urban Impact, a subsidiary of the Swedish chemical, metals and recycling multinational “The Cellmark Group”. Former Attorney General Geoff Plant, while not registered as a lobbyist, did represent Green Coast Rubbish Inc. at meetings of Metro Van’s Zero Waste Committee.

Bylaw 280: keeping the waste in the region

In 2011, Metro Van discovered a leak in their garbage plan.

After analyzing the flow of garbage, Metro Van staff noticed that a small portion of the overall tonnage was disappearing.  Officials then discovered that faced with higher fees to dump garbage in a Metro Van facility, some waste companies had started to truck garbage to facilities outside the region where the fee to dump their rubbish is $70 per tonne in Abbotsford as opposed to $107 per tonne in metro Vancouver. To stem the leak, regional politicians passed a new bylaw -- Bylaw 280 -- requiring garbage generated in Metro Vancouver be processed at regional facilities, and not trucked outside to evade waste prohibitions and higher dumping fees. Metro Van argues the move ensures control over the waste-flow in the region, and helps to support recycling and reuse programs.

Critics charge that Bylaw 280 is designed to guarantee a steady stream of trash to 'feed' a second waste-to-energy facility, and that the bylaw threatens to thwart private industry plans to exploit a public resource.

“They are the regulator and the operator in the same instance,” says Black. “So now you’re talking about them owning a $500 million incinerator and you’re taking all their fuel stock away from them and they are regulating you. What do you think will happen? It’s pretty clear.”

The bylaw needs final approval from the provincial government, and Russ Black says there is an intensive lobbying effort to try and turn the tide against Bylaw 280 and incineration.

“The incineration group, even though they are not supposed to be lobbying, they are lobbying. I know for a fact they are knocking on the doors of councillors so they have a big lobby function going on, all 10 of them in the game now.”

On top of the waste-haulers and incinerator-proponents, environmentalists and small recycling companies are also demanding Metro Van drop plans for an incinerator, and MRFs. Recycling companies like Harvest Power and Urban Impact have told Metro Van that MRFs will reverse years of recycling education and produce a dirty-product in the end.

As a veteran politician, Malcolm Brodie knows he has a hot political potato on his hands; an issue engulfed in passion and conjecture, lobbying, marketing and scare tactics.

“What I would like to see is it (the discussion) become a more rational, scientific based discussion on what are the risks and what are the opportunities,” says Brodie. “I don’t find myself motivated by unfortunate scare tactics that I see being adopted. We rely on scientists and engineers, we rely on planners and all kinds of consultants and experts who will guide us and I believe we are on the appropriate route.”

Brodie stresses that a decision has not yet been made on incineration, and that there is still plenty of work ahead for the Zero Waste Committee before a final vote. What he does know is that the decisions that need to be made will be tough. And the fervour over garbage and how to handle it is unlikely to die down anytime soon.

 “The perceptions that are generated make for good politics.”

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