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Metro Vancouver, FVRD clash over waste-to-energy talks

Metro Vancouver
Metro Vancouver's existing waste-to-energy incinerator in south Burnaby burns 280,000 tonnes of garbage each year.
— image credit: Bing.com

Metro Vancouver directors defended their push to build a new garbage incinerator for the region Friday and criticized Fraser Valley Regional District politicians for refusing to participate in consultations so far.

Metro is expected to begin one year of formal provincially mandated consultations with the FVRD on its waste-to-energy strategy this spring when it reveals all potential sites under consideration and narrows the number of prospective builders and their technologies.

Meanwhile, Metro politicians say they've tried repeatedly to meet with their FVRD counterparts to get their input ahead of the formal stage – on concerns such as emission standards – but have been rebuffed.

"They haven't listened, they won't listen," Metro board chair Greg Moore told directors during Friday's board meeting. "We've attempted to meet. But this is too good of a political issue for them."

Speaking after the meeting, Moore said the FVRD has only campaigned against Metro's waste-to-energy plans through the media.

"Every time we went back they seemed to put up another parameter to delay or at least not have the willingness to sit down across the table," he said.

FVRD directors had demanded as a precondition to talks that Metro put a Valley representative on Metro's expert panel overseeing the procurement process and that Metro not charge the FVRD for the release of documents it has requested under Freedom of Information.

Both requests have been rejected.

Moore said the expert panel consists of independent consultants – Metro staff don't even sit on it. "We said that can't happen," he said.

FVRD board chair Sharon Gaetz said the FVRD wants to meet but the sessions must be open to the public – not held behind closed doors as Metro has insisted.

"Until they're ready to concede on that, we feel it is outside of what the Community Charter legislates and so is, frankly, illegal," said Gaetz, who accused Metro reps of political spin.

"We have been persistent in asking for meaningful consultation and we've been stonewalled."

The FVRD is also asking the provincial government to reject a draft new operating certificate for Metro's existing garbage incinerator in Burnaby and impose numerous new conditions.

Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie, chair of Metro's zero waste committee chair, said planned upgrades to the incinerator will cut its emissions in half. When a new waste-to-energy plant is built with even more advanced pollution controls, Brodie said, the two plants will together emit less than the current one does today.

The current waste-to-energy emissions of smog-forming pollutants are less than one per cent of the total released in the region, he said.

"We hear endlessly from our great friends in the Fraser Valley and elsewhere about the emissions when really what we are talking about is such a small sliver of the total emissions of the region."

Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan also accused Vancouver reps of hypocrisy after Mayor Gregor Robertson complained of difficulties arranging for steam from the Burnaby incinerator to be piped west to heat homes in Vancouver's newly developed East Fraserlands neighbourhood.

"Vancouver is opposed to incinerators but they want the heat out of ours," Corrigan said.

He said the steam may instead be sold to a potential new industrial user adjacent to the incinerator in Burnaby, adding there are benefits to a city hosting an incinerator.

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