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FVRD blasts Metro Vancouver over waste management plan

Directors of the Fraser Valley Regional District accused Metro Vancouver of creating a waste management plan that ensures a steady stream of capital and fuel to Metro's planned $500 million Waste-to-Energy incineration facility.

"The main discussion around (waste) flow control is because you're going to need it to feed your incinerator," Chilliwack mayor and FVRD board chair Sharon Gaetz told Richmond mayor Malcolm Brodie, chair of Metro's Zero Waste Committee. "You're going to need it to pay the $500 million that it will cost to be able to build that incinerator. Tell us, is that true? Is that not true? And if it's not true, you better give us a pretty good explanation."

As presented to FVRD's board on Tuesday, Metro Vancouver wants to regulate where garbage haulers dump their waste, in order to prevent an outflow of garbage to nearby landfills with cheaper tipping fees. A private transfer station in Abbotsford is a prime destination for Metro waste, accounting for much of the estimated 50,000 tons of garbage that is already being trucked out of Vancouver each year.

Metro plans to divert 70 per cent of its waste through recycling and composting by 2015, and 80 per cent by 2020. The region currently diverts 57 per cent.

With such high diversion rates, Metro would need to ensure that it has enough revenue to fund its waste management services. The region could accomplish this by stemming garbage outflow, and by raising landfill tipping fees from the current $107 per ton, to $151 per ton by 2017. Tipping fees within the FVRD stand at $75 per ton.

"To be able to push the tipping fees that high and control that garbage gives everybody the message that you're trying to find a way to be able to keep feeding the beast," said Gaetz, referring to Metro's planned WTE incinerator.

Items most easily diverted from incineration, being plastics, organics, and wood and paper, also generate the most energy when burned, leaving FVRD vice-chair and Abbotsford city councilor Patricia Ross to wonder what there will be left to burn.

Abbotsford mayor and FVRD director Bruce Banman accused Metro of seeking to monopolize the market on garbage in order to fund and fuel the planned WTE facility.

"I look at the current government that we have in the province of British Columbia, and I am thankful that they will have a say in this because I can't imagine a free-enterprise saying that you guys get a monopoly," said Banman. "I don't know how you're going to explain to all your taxpayers that they're going to be clipped an extra 50 bucks a ton because you needed to manage your business plan."

Banman compared Metro with Oslo, Norway, a city that imports garbage in order to fuel its waste-to-energy facilities that supply about half of the city's electricity.

Tuesday's FVRD board meeting was the first opportunity that directors have had to address the Zero Waste Committee publicly, on their home turf, and directors were quick to express their frustration with Metro's WTE consultation process.

"We've waited for a long time for this, to be able to talk about (incineration) at Fraser Valley Regional District," said Gaetz.

Brodie insisted that flow control and incineration were two separate issues, and that Metro would have to implement its flow control program irrespective of future waste-to-energy technology.

"We came here to speak about the waste flow control, and that's what we want to speak about. We asked for consultations with the political people around this table to talk about the waste-to-energy situation in general, but we really haven't made much progress on that," said Brodie.

Gaetz replied that FVRD will be open to consultation once its WTE expert is admitted onto the Zero Waste Committee's third party panel, and once Metro freely forwards documents related to the incinerator that FVRD has requested. Metro has asked for $5,000 in fees for the documents, costs that FVRD maintains should be waived because the documents relate to a matter of public safety.

Banman was incensed at Metro's consultation process.

"You talk about consultation, about if you were to ever import garbage, you'd consult. Well I hope it goes a heck of a lot better than the consultation with regards to the burner that you really don't want to talk about, because it's really awkaward, and it's the big elephant in the room."

Metro Vancouver is currently finalizing its procurement plan for the WTE facility. If Metro reaches its "aggressive" diversion targets, said Solid Waste Services manager Paul Henderson, it would scale down the capacity of its existing and planned WTE facilities.

akonevski@theprogress.com
twitter.com/alinakonevski
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