Abbotsford Coun. and Fraser Valley Regional District vice-chair Patricia Ross and Abbotsford Mayor Bruce Banman.

Metro Vancouver picks incineration experts without FVRD input

Regional board backtracks to seek feedback but not approval on third-party panel

Fraser Valley politicians are outraged Metro Vancouver didn’t consult them when it hired a panel of third-party experts to help guide the controversial process of building a new waste-to-energy plant to burn Metro garbage.

Opposition to a possible new in-region incinerator is fierce in the Fraser Valley Regional District, where air pollution from the Vancouver area concentrates, and reps there condemned Metro’s move to unilaterally pick most of the panel.

“We are the recipients of their pollution,” FVRD vice-chair Patricia Ross said. “Yet I get the sense they see us as a pesky fly to be batted out of the way.”

The two regions have dueled before over the science of incineration.

FVRD reps criticized Metro-enlisted experts as pro-incineration during public consultations leading up to the province’s 2011 approval of Metro’s solid waste plan to pursue new waste-to-energy capacity.

Ross also publicly feuded with Provincial Health Officer Dr. Perry Kendall after he said he saw few health risks from waste incineration and Metro yanked grant funding from an air quality scientist who said it would be “stupid” to build more incinerators in the airshed.

Ross isn’t yet calling the panelists biased but says Metro should have consulted the FVRD on the choice if it was serious about following the direction from B.C.’s environment minister to ensure Valley concerns are fairly considered.

“I want to discover whether they have a bias,” Ross said. “What’s their past history? Have they worked closely with the industry?”

Panelists hired by Metro so far are: waste-to-energy technical expert and professional engineer Jeremy O’Brien, who was nominated by the Solid Waste Association of North America; energy and sustainability expert Thomas Pedersen, who was nominated by and is executive director of the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions; and air quality and health expert Michael Brauer, a professor at UBC’s School of Population and Public Health and nominated by UBC’s Bridge Program.

A fourth and final appointee with expertise in health impact assessment is still to be nominated by the Fraser and Vancouver Coastal health authorities.

Red flags about the lack of FVRD input went up at Metro’s Oct. 26 board meeting, where Surrey Coun. Marvin Hunt said he wanted the list of panelists run by Valley reps.

“History shows we can bring in experts from all over the world and if they’re not respected as experts we’re going to hear nothing but complaints,” Hunt said.

The board agreed to refer the panelist list for feedback, but not approval, to not just the FVRD but also other neighbouring regional districts and to the environment ministry.

“I’m much more interested in whether the provincial government sees this as a fair panel,” Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan said. “We want to be sure they are impartial and objective.”

Metro also intends to invite FVRD reps to a future meeting of its zero waste committee to try to iron out differences over the waste-to-energy procurement process, which was approved by the board Friday.

Extensive consultations have been promised as Metro aims to build new waste-fired capacity to burn an extra 370,000 tonnes of garbage per year by 2018 while it phases out its use of the Cache Creek regional landfill.

Qualified proponents and their technologies are to be identified first and then Metro will seek potential sites – in and outside the region – that would later be matched with short-listed proponents.

A winning bidder would be picked in early 2015 ahead of an environmental assessment and other permitting.

Ross said it’s disappointing Metro doesn’t believe it needs FVRD approval on the expert panel.

Nor does she believe alternative emerging waste-to-energy technologies like gasification or pyrolysis – advocated by some Metro directors – are necessarily cleaner or healthier.

In a staff report, the FVRD criticizes Metro’s planned consultations, arguing they would be too limited in scope, start too soon since decisions on sites and technologies are still years away, and would inappropriately lump the FVRD in with other regional districts with less at stake.

It also says a proposed Metro-FVRD working group on potential air quality impacts doesn’t go as far as the province requires.

Abbotsford Mayor Bruce Banman said his city remains solidly against a new in-region incinerator and is concerned about how the process is unfolding so far.

“Metro continues to be blatantly disrespectful and contrary to the rules they’ve been told to apply,” Banman said. “The minister should be very concerned.”

Banman said Metro campaigns to protect farmland and food security yet fails to reject incineration based on the risk it poses if airborne toxins land on food crops.

“They speak out of one side of their mouth on how they need to preserve farmland to feed ourselves in the future, yet this very action can put that in jeopardy.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Fraser Health has added two more Langley schools to its list of COVID-19 exposures. (Joti Grewal/Langley Advance Times)
Two more Langley schools added to COVID-19 exposure list

Families of Langley Secondary and Dorothy Peacock Elementary were notified, district says

John Horgan meets with candidates Pam Alexis and Preet Rai and local citizens in Abbotsford on Wednesday afternoon. (Submitted)
NDP Leader John Horgan campaigns in Abbotsford with local candidates

Horgan meets with hopefuls Pam Alexis and Preet Rai on Wednesday afternoon

Swimco announced recently it is shutting all of its stores in Canada, including in Langley. (Swimco website)
Canadian-owned swimsuit chain bankrupt

Swimco had been in creditor protection for several months

This 2020 electron microscope image made available by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases shows a Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 particle isolated from a patient, in a laboratory in Fort Detrick, Md. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-NIAID/NIH via AP
COVID case confirmed at Fort Langley Seniors Community

One of five new cases reported by Fraser health Authority

John Horgan brought the NDP campaign to Langley on Wednesday, Oct. 21, just three days before the B.C. vote (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)
Horgan brings NDP campaign to Langley

Predicts gains, says people are looking at the party ‘differently’ after three years

Mary Foote (right) took part in the Gutsy Walk in August 2020 at the age of 104. She was joined by son in-law Clarence and daughter Edith Olson. (family photo)
Langley woman turns 105 on Oct. 25

In August, Mary Foote took part in the Gutsy Walk to battle Crohn’s and Colitis

Jordan Naterer, an electrical engineer from Vancouver, was last seen Saturday Oct. 10. (Facebook photo)
Search efforts to resume for missing Manning Park hiker; Trudeau speaks on case

PM says he’ll do what he can to ‘nudge’ efforts to find Jordan Naterer, yet has little leverage locally

Smartphone showing various applications to social media services and Google. (Pixabay photo)
National media calling for level playing field with Google, Facebook

In Canada, Google and Facebook control 80 per cent of all online advertising revenues

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

École de L’Anse-au-sable. (Google Maps)
B.C. records first COVID-19 outbreak at school, six weeks after students return to class

Three cases of the virus have been identified at École de L’Anse-au-sable

Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau is seen as she leaves media event during a campaign stop in West Vancouver, B.C., Tuesday, October 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. Green leader hopes voters see value in minority government

The Greens received nearly 17 per cent of the popular vote in 2017 yet received just three seats

Local candidates Pam Alexis, Abbotsford-Mission, and Preet Rai, Abbotsford-West, look on as NDP Leader John Horgan main streets in Abbotsford, B.C., Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. NDP takes snap election risk during pandemic in quest for majority government

Green Leader Sonia Furstenau said the election was unnecessary and irresponsible during the pandemic

Most Read