Provincial politicians turning up the heat on incinerator

Abbotsford-South MLA John van Dongen and Chilliwack MLA John Les have questioned Metro's consultation process with the FVRD.

Provincial politicians have been turning up the criticism of Metro Vancouver over the proposed waste-to-energy facility.

Last week, the debate took centre stage during question period at the legislature.

Abbotsford-South MLA  John van Dongen grilled Environment Minister Terry Lake. He said that in July 2011 the minister made a controversial decision when he approved Metro’s solid waste management plan that opened the door for a large garbage-burning incinerator in the Lower Mainland – expected to have a serious impact on the Fraser Valley airshed.

According to van Dongen, the minister approved the plan over the strong objections of the citizens of the Fraser Valley.

Despite Lake’s assurances that consultation would take place, van Dongen said it “is abundantly clear that Metro Vancouver is thumbing their noses at everyone from the minister on down. When is the minister going to face the fact that Metro Vancouver has absolutely no intention of living up to his conditions?”

Two weeks ago, Chilliwack MLA and former environment minister John Les also criticized the plan and Metro Vancouver’s determination to proceed, despite the possible negative effect on the Fraser Valley airshed.

Lake responded to van Dongen, saying, “I did not approve any incinerator, waste-to-energy proposal in Metro Vancouver. We were abundantly clear when we approved the solid waste management plan for Metro Vancouver. They were instructed that if they were to consider in-region waste to energy, they would have to consult fully with the Fraser Valley Regional District (FVRD).”

Lake added that he and the premier made a commitment that if “such a proposal was introduced, it would be subject to a full environmental assessment review.”

But van Dongen was not satisfied, pointing out that “Metro Vancouver recently denied an FVRD seat on a third-party expert review panel that is supposed to discuss scientific and technical issues,” adding that  last month the chair of the Metro Vancouver waste committee, Malcolm Brodie, summed up the issue by saying, “Whether people like it or not, the (incinerator proposal) decision has been made.”

Brodie, who is also the mayor of Richmond, told The News that quote is “incomplete” and needs context.

“We have to realize that when we have a consultation, the plan calls for waste-to-energy. That is a decision that has been made. Now every time we say waste-to-energy, Fraser Valley Regional District says incinerator,” said Brodie.

He said Metro is in the process of determining  what possible technologies might be used. But they are using waste-to-energy as opposed to landfill.

“When we go to consult we’re not going to go back to square one and say what do we do? The question is what form of waste-to-energy will be used and where will it be sited. That’s what is to be determined,” said Brodie.

Metro aims to have a new waste-to-energy plant  built by 2018.

Potential sites both within and outside the region are to be proposed this summer and made public by fall.

Brodie said full consultation will occur between Metro and the FVRD as well as other interested parties, including First Nations.

Metro and FVRD staff groups have already been meeting for “well over a year” said Brodie, adding there have been about 10 meetings to this point. He said he has heard the FVRD request for political group meetings as well and is willing to discuss the timing of such meetings.

Van Dongen has also questioned the recent nomination of Marvin Hunt as the BC Liberal Candidate for Surrey-Panorama.

In a media interview with a Black Press newspaper, Hunt identified himself as a proponent of building a waste-to-energy incinerator in North Surrey.

“It is unbelievable to me that the premier is supporting the nomination of a BC Liberal candidate who is encouraging the building of an incinerator in the Lower Mainland,” said van Dongen.

“Why would they nominate a candidate who is an advocate for a waste-to-energy incinerator which would directly impact our airshed and which is so strongly opposed by the citizens of the Fraser Valley?”