News

Abbotsford mayor ready for trash 'fight'

Metro Vancouver presently trucks 500,000 tonnes of garbage to Cache Creek annually. -
Metro Vancouver presently trucks 500,000 tonnes of garbage to Cache Creek annually.
— image credit:

by Kevin Mills and Jeff Nagel, Black Press

If Metro Vancouver wants a fight over the proposal to burn trash, Abbotsford Mayor Bruce Banman is ready to engage.

He is “furious” at the news that Metro wants to move forward by the end of March with a call for private partners to express interest in a plan to build new in-region waste-to-energy plants.

Last summer, Metro secured the province’s approval of its solid waste management plan, which included incinerating waste. But Banman said Metro was told by the province to “negotiate in good faith” with neighbouring communities in the Valley, including Abbotsford, which are concerned about the environmental effects of burning garbage, particularly in terms of Valley air quality.

“They’ve chosen just to do whatever they feel like, and if they want a fight on their hands, they’ve got one. Tell them to put their gloves on because they’re going to need them,” he said.

Banman has met with other members of the Fraser Valley Regional District (FVRD) who confirmed that no consultations have yet commenced.

“They haven’t consulted with us … there’s a report going to the province (from the FVRD). The city will be sending a letter to the province. It’s appalling their actions. It’s not how you treat your neighbours ... we’re going to do absolutely everything we can to fight this. This is not consultation, this is bullying,” said Banman.

The Abbotsford mayor is also upset with the provincial government for letting the process go this far.

“The province needs to step up to the plate and basically back up what they said they would do.”

He wants Victoria to push Metro to consult with the FVRD.

He said both Mission Mayor Ted Adlem and Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz (who is also the chair of the FVRD) feel the same way.

Gaetz said she is disappointed and surprised by Metro’s actions.

“Minister Terry Lake said there needed to be consultation with FVRD before construction began and … I think RFP (request for proposals) is the first stage of construction,” said Gaetz.

She believes there will be no opportunity to back up after the proposals have gone ahead.

Gaetz added that the Fraser Valley remains unanimous in saying “this is not good for our fragile airshed.”

Earlier this week, new Metro board chair Greg Moore predicted there will be intense interest from international companies that want to partner with the region to showcase the evolving technologies to convert garbage into energy.

“I think we’ll all be surprised by the number of companies that will put their names forward,” Moore said.

The region already has one incinerator in south Burnaby that burns nearly 300,000 tonnes a year, but it wants additional waste-to-energy capacity to handle another 500,000 tonnes of garbage so it can stop trucking that amount east to the Cache Creek regional landfill.

Moore hopes most of the key issues can be settled by the end of March, paving the way for a call for private partners to step forward.

Rather than an open call for bids to handle all 500,000 tonnes, Moore expects Metro may carve some out – perhaps 100,000 tonnes – that would be reserved for emerging technologies that claim to gassify or use other processes other than combustion to convert garbage with almost no emissions.

Metro’s greenest-minded civic leaders have been pushing to give a leg up to those options, because a wide-open call would likely be won by proposals for conventional incineration, which is low-cost and established.

“There’s a general understanding that the emerging technology isn’t scalable to the size we need yet,” Moore said.

Moore also noted Metro may have need for more waste-to-energy capacity after the initial plants are built.

The flow of garbage going to the Vancouver Landfill in Delta – now around 500,000 tonnes – is supposed to be gradually cut down to less than 100,000 tonnes a year by 2020 as waste reduction and recycling strategies improve.

Also to be decided is whether Metro would own new plants – it owns the Burnaby incinerator but contracts out operation – or if they would be financed, built and owned by a private firm that would charge Metro a per tonne disposal fees.

If the latter, Metro would have to commit to a long-term garbage supply contract.

Nor is it clear yet exactly where the new incinerators might be built, although sites in New Westminster and on Tsawwassen First Nation land have been raised publicly in the past, and some Surrey politicians are keen to host a waste-to-energy plant in their city.

An alternate location is a former pulp mill on the northwest coast of Vancouver Island, where Covanta Energy wants to build an incinerator that could take Metro waste.

That could be the ultimate choice to address Fraser Valley concerns, but it may be more costly for Metro because of the need to barge waste there.

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