A load of garbage is hoisted at the Burnaby waste-to-energy plant. Planning work gets underway soon for a possible new Metro Vancouver garbage incinerator.

A load of garbage is hoisted at the Burnaby waste-to-energy plant. Planning work gets underway soon for a possible new Metro Vancouver garbage incinerator.

More burning questions loom on Metro garbage

Incinerator debate set to resume as region plans call for waste-to-energy bidders

Metro Vancouver politicians soon face critical choices on how they pursue waste-to-energy incineration now that the province has approved the region’s solid waste plan.

A key issue – to be tackled this fall – is whether any new incinerator should be publicly owned and operated or outsourced to a private partner.

A Metro-built facility would mean taxpayers pay directly for it – a price tag that could easily top $500 million – but the region would be able to sell the energy generated, offsetting much of the ongoing costs and maybe even turn a small profit.

If a private partner instead finances, builds and runs the plant, Metro would avoid up-front costs and the risks of ownership but sign a long-term garbage-supply contract. The region would pay per-tonne garbage disposal fees, which would cover not just the construction and operating costs but also the partner’s profit margin and its potentially higher borrowing costs.

Directors will likely debate whether Metro should keep the energy revenue for itself, how much that power might be worth in the future and whether Metro could scale down incineration if residents recycle and compost more than expected.

“The business model is one thing we have to determine out of the gate,” said Port Coquitlam Mayor Greg Moore, who chairs Metro waste management committee.

A hybrid option might be for Metro to finance the plant but contract out construction and operation, with an agreement on sharing both risks and revenues.

Metro’s waste committee and board is expected to soon begin to frame its request for proposals, although it won’t be finalized until early next year, after civic elections in November bring a new set of directors.

Moore said that call will leave the plant’s location wide open, allowing open competition between out-of-region bidders like Covanta Energy, which proposes an incinerator at Gold River on Vancouver Island, and other proponents with in-region sites, such as a possible bid by Aquilini Renewable Energy on Tsawwassen First Nation land.

That may bring a tussle at the board over how to rate the bids.

Should more weight be given to avoiding local air emissions by barging trash to Gold River?

Or should efficiently located in-region sites with better potential to sell energy into a district heating network win out on dollar value because of lower transport costs and higher revenues?

Would locating the incinerator in Surrey help transform its emerging downtown with new development?

Or would it be less risky to place the plant in North Vancouver, where it could simply plug in to Lower Lonsdale’s existing district heat system, now fired by natural gas?

Metro estimates an in-region burner will cost taxpayers at least $1 billion less over the long term than out-of-region options – although critics hotly dispute the underlying assumptions.

Another tough choice is whether to give some preference to emerging waste conversion technologies, such as gasification or pyrolysis, which promise ultra-low emissions but don’t have the track record of conventional mass-burn incineration.

“There was a lot of desire around the board to look at new and emerging waste-to-energy technology,” Moore said.

Some directors warn those alternatives won’t stand a chance if the bidding is wide open to a mass-burn incinerator, which they expect to wield a big cost advantage.

Vancouver councillors, who tried a year ago to ban mass-burn combustion from the waste plan, are expected to mount a similar push again.

Moore said the board might opt to carve out part of the 500,000 tonnes of waste per year for proponents of alternative technologies, who wouldn’t have to bid against a conventional incinerator.

That may lead to another choice – whether to go with a single plant or multiple ones.

Metro is also expected to hire a third-party independent expert for advice in the coming decisions.

A final decision on what will be built and where could be 18 months away, Metro officials say.

While the politicians decide the framework for what might be built, Metro will also start consulting the Fraser Valley Regional District (FVRD) to address concerns that toxic emissions will worsen air quality in the already polluted airshed.

Environment Minister Terry Lake ordered the consultations and establishment of a joint working group of the two regions, directing Metro to take steps to address “reasonable” concerns of the FVRD.

The two regions, at odds over the public health risks, have one year to agree on emission standards and environmental monitoring for any new incinerator. If they can’t agree, the dispute goes to arbitration.

What counts as a “reasonable” objection?

No one knows.

But the hammer of arbitration and subsequent provincial approvals necessary for any plant could still allow Victoria to block in-region incineration, in response to the demands of Valley residents.

Moore said he’s hopeful staff of both regional districts can look objectively at the issues.

“Frankly, I’d like to try to take some of the politics out of it.”

He said Metro is committed to using the best emissions control systems available.

 

Burnaby incinerator may wind down as recycling gains

One concern of recycling advocates – that building an incinerator will lock Metro into feeding it rather than continuing to improve recycling rates – is inaccurate, according to Metro waste committee chair Greg Moore.

If Metro gets beyond its new 2020 target of 80 per cent diversion and doesn’t require as much disposal capacity, he said, the Burnaby waste-to-energy plant would be gradually decommissioned.

It has three burners and streams feeding them that each process about 90,000 tonnes of waste per year.

“We would slowly take those offline,” Moore said.

He cautioned Metro’s estimates of 1.3 million tonnes still requiring disposal in the future is based on the region hitting all its diversion targets, including the short-term commitment of recycling 70 per cent by 2015, up from 55 per cent now.

That will depend on aggressive new recycling efforts, tightened disposal bans and region-wide composting of food waste.

The new waste-to-energy plant would take the 500,000 tonnes per year Metro now sends to the Cache Creek landfill.

Another 500,000 tonnes goes to the Vancouver Landfill in Delta, while close to 280,000 tonnes goes to the Burnaby incinerator.

Metro previously committed to stop trucking its garbage to Cache Creek, although continued landfilling remains a backup option in the new plan.

Moore said there are plans to decrease use of the Vancouver Landfill over the long term, but noted some landfill capacity is needed as a contingency and to take ash from incinerated garbage.

Just Posted

FVRD surveyed public opinion on cannabis production and processing in the electoral areas. Odour and distance from residential areas were the top concerns. (Black Press file)
Cannabis production and processing rules being drafted by Fraser Valley Regional District

Data from public opinion survey will be used to guide cannabis-related land use

Robert Nelson, 35, died after being stabbed at a homeless camp in Abbotsford on April 7 of this year.
Mom pleads for information about son’s killing at Abbotsford homeless camp

Robert Nelson, 35, described as ‘man who stood for justice, honour, respect’

Police arrest the suspect in an attempted armed bank robbery on June 2 at the Scotiabank at Gladwin Road and South Fraser Way in Abbotsford. (Photo by Garry Amyot)
Abbotsford bank robbery suspect who was stopped by customers faces more charges

Neil Simpson now faces total of eight charges, up from the initial two

poster
Drop-in Covid vaccine clinic in Mission June 17-18

Neighbourhood clinics complement appointment-based clinics currently operating in Mission

Logo
Canadian Blood Service is adding additional donor clinics in Mission

New Sunday clinics begin June 20, donors can register online

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (31) is scored on by Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Alec Martinez, not pictured, during the second period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup semifinal playoff series Monday, June 14, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Habs fall 4-1 to Vegas Golden Knights in Game 1 of NHL semifinal series

Match was Montreal’s first game outside of Canada in 2021

Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick, assistant deputy speaker at the B.C. legislature, presides over committee discussions. The legislature is completing its delayed spring session this week, with most MLAs participating by video conference. (Hansard TV)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 infections dip below 100 over weekend

Only 68 new cases recorded Monday, four additional deaths

The BC Ferries website went down for a short while Monday morning following a provincial announcement that recreational travel between health authorities can resume Tuesday. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries’ website crashes in wake of provincial reopening announcement

Website back up now, recreational travel between health regions to resume as of Tuesday

The Kamloops Indian Residential School is photographed using a drone in Kamloops, B.C., Monday, June, 14, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former school earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Communities grapple with what to do with former residential and day schools

Some tear them down as a tool to help healing, others repurpose them as tools for moving forward

FILE – Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. watching U.K.’s COVID struggles but don’t think province will see similar pitfalls

Studies show that one dose of vaccine is only 33 per cent effective in preventing B.1.617.2 spread

RCMP Const. Shelby Patton is shown in this undated handout photo. RCMP say that Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over on Saturday morning in Wolseley, east of Regina. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, RCMP
Pair charged in Saskatchewan Mountie’s death make first court appearance

Const. Shelby Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over Saturday morning

David and Collet Stephan leave for a break during an appeal hearing in Calgary on Thursday, March 9, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Appeal Court rejects stay for Alberta couple facing third trial in son’s death

Pair accused in their earlier trials of not seeking medical attention for their son sooner

Highway notices like this come down effective June 14. Public health restrictions on non-essential travel and commercial operation have hit local businesses in every corner of B.C. (B.C. government)
Province-wide travel back on in B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan

Gathering changes include up to 50 people for outdoor events

Most Read