Waste-to-energy proposal worse than SE2: Ross

Local politicians say their voices have been ignored on incinerator issue

Metro Vancouver's proposed waste-to-energy incinerator may end up in the Fraser Valley.

Metro Vancouver's proposed waste-to-energy incinerator may end up in the Fraser Valley.

Metro Vancouver’s plan to build a waste-to-energy (WTE) trash incinerator, potentially in the Lower Mainland, is “worse than SE2,” according to Abbotsford Coun. Patricia Ross.

She said representatives from the Fraser Valley Regional District (FVRD) have had their voices ignored on Metro’s WTE incinerator plan, which will have a critical environmental effect on the unique Fraser Valley air shed.

Her comments come in the wake of a fresh blast at the WTE proposal, launched by Chilliwack MLA John Les, who said the Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD) has forgotten that the project would still need to pass a stringent provincial environmental review process.

Ross feels the incinerator would be even more destructive to the air shed than the proposed Sumas Energy 2 (SE2), an American project that would have built a polluting power plant near the border. The plan was defeated after a large public outcry, which drew politicians and thousands of citizens into a six-year battle to stop the project.

“This is going to emit far worse toxins that SE2 ever would have.”

Ross said Metro Vancouver has been dismissive of the uniqueness of the Fraser Valley’s air shed since the WTE project was proposed, though they had previously backed its need for protection during the SE2 issue.

“It seems that ever since they decided to burn garbage they’ve done a bit of a one-eighty.”

Last month, GVRD Waste Committee Chair Malcolm Brodie told the media that, “Whether people like it or not, that decision has been made,” referring to the WTE facility.

Les said Brodie’s “belligerent” and “arrogant” comments are inappropriate.

“Whatever process (GVRD members) choose ultimately has to go through a complete provincial environmental review process. He seems to have conveniently, for now at least, brushed that out of the way as if that doesn’t matter,” said Les.

B.C. environment minister Terry Lake confirmed in Chilliwack in March 2012 that Fraser Valley residents will have the opportunity for “full input” into the incinerator’s environmental assessment process.

“We know that air quality is a critical issue for residents of the Fraser Valley, so we wanted to assure people that whatever proposal comes forward (at Metro Vancouver) that it will undergo the most rigorous environmental review possible in B.C.,” he said.

The WTE project’s third party expert review panel rejected Fraser Valley Regional District’s request for a seat in December, instead establishing a political liaison committee with space for an FVRD representative.

Ross said Fraser Valley representatives have been blocked from sharing their studies on the environmental impact with the board of the GVRD, which has continued to dismiss their concerns.

“Our position is very much based on science, and we’ve frankly proven them wrong time after time with science. But they just don’t seem to want to back down.”

Ross said fighting against the WTE proposal has been difficult and time-consuming, saying Metro Vancouver has a multi-million dollar media and communications budget, while those opposed to the project have not been given a forum to voice their opposition. Opponents such as Ross have been approaching representatives from the GVRD individually, trying to change their minds.

“We need to explain to people that of all places to build an incinerator, this is not one of them; because of the unique air shed, because of the risk to health, because of the fact that we have some of the most productive farmland in world, we don’t want to put that at risk.”

Les believes that Fraser Valley residents will be watching the environmental review process “like a hawk,” and thinks the incinerator not only threatens the Fraser Valley air shed, but also represents poor public policy for Greater Vancouver tax-payers.

“The half-billion dollar cost of this potential project really has the beginnings of boondoggle written all over it,” said Les.

The site is a “cash cow” for Vancouver, he said, with the city receiving “many millions of dollars per year” for its operation, but Ross said this project will not make the money that Metro Vancouver believes it will.

Although Les has spoken out against the project, he will not run for re-election in May. Ross said it is important that people contact their MLAs and express their opposition to the project.

“Don’t leave it to someone else to stop it. The only reason we were successful with SE2 was because thousands and thousands of people stepped up and they made their voices heard.”

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