Metro Vancouver has cancelled public information meetings on its controversial incinerator project, including one that had been set for May 24 in Gibsons, and Metro officials say they don’t expect to engage the public until next year.
“The notion of community consultation meetings are on hold and are likely to be on hold till the new year,” Metro communications officer Bill Morrell confirmed Tuesday.
The decision came to light on April 17, three days after Nanaimo city council rejected a proposed Duke Point site, when Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) chief administrative officer John France told directors he had received word of the changed plans that afternoon from Metro CAO Carol Mason.
“The project is on hold pending a review of the whole process,” France reported to the SCRD’s planning and development committee.
In fact, Morrell said, only the public consultation phase is on hold, but the site selection process is continuing.
“Metro is still going through the procurement process,” he said.
Morrell said the original plan was to have a two-phase process that would first review previously announced sites — including Port Mellon — and then follow up with additional sites that had been submitted by landowners under a separate request for proposals. Instead, it “became more logical” to review all the sites together.
“I think obviously it became apparent that to do a fair comparison we have to have all the sites announced,” he said. “It’s a matter of having a process that’s cohesive and allows us and the public to look at all the sites at the same time.”
Morrell said he expected Metro to decide on the feasibility of six undisclosed sites by late spring or early summer, but it could take longer to negotiate options on properties or lease arrangements, as well as ensuring the waste-to-energy technology is appropriately matched to the proposed use.
For the Port Mellon site, proponent Aquilini Renewable Energy said its $500-million incinerator would provide power to Howe Sound Pulp and Paper and closed containment coho salmon farms, while captured carbon dioxide would be used for a pharmaceutical algae farm and a greenhouse operation.
France, in his report to the planning and development committee, said Mason also indicated the community engagement process would not take place until next year.
He said he told Mason that the SCRD does not support the burning of waste.
At the same meeting, directors passed a recommendation from the natural resources advisory committee for the SCRD not to support the incinerator project “due to lack of pertinent information regarding project scope and due to the numerous potential deleterious effects.”
Concerns include: airshed sensitivity, distribution of harmful emissions (particulates, lead, furans, dioxins), management of waste prior to incineration, residuals management, leaching of toxins from waste material into groundwater, increased marine traffic, unknown incinerator technology, carbon emissions, and the cumulative effects when added to current industrial activities.
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