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Coquitlam demands business case from Metro Vancouver for $480 million incineration plan

City of Coquitlam says Metro Vancouver proceeding down a path and spending tax dollars on a half-billion dollar incineration strategy without all the current facts. 23rd in the series.

Coquitlam councillor Neal Nicholson (right) says incineration strategy needs to be reviewed. Photo by Mike Chisholm.

As Metro Vancouver moves ahead with plans to invest $500 million in a new waste-to-energy facility, the City of Coquitlam is slamming on the brakes and demanding a business plan for the project. 

"Many of us want [the proposed incinerator business plan]. We have asked for it frequently," Coquitlam councillor and chartered accountant Neal Nicholson told the Vancouver Observer on Thursday after the monthly Zero Waste Committee meeting.

Like some others in the City of Coquitlam, Nicholson believes that the "world has changed" since 2009, when Metro Vancouver passed its Integrated Solid Waste and Resource Management Plan. In order to accommodate for the expected 700,000 tonnes of non-recycled garbage when the region's population increases, Metro Vancouver's plan called for a $480 million waste-to-energy incinerator as a solution to deal with the waste.

While the plan does call for increased recycling to keep garbage out of landfills (up to 70 per cent, with an aspirational goal of 80 per cent), it doesn't consider new advancements in recycling technology. In particular, material recovery facilities (MRFs) -- which have helped some cities reach a high landfill diversion rate, without incineration -- have been left out of the plan altogether. And given how much things have chanced, Nicholson believes Metro Vancouver needs to show the why it must spend half a billion dollars toward waste-to-energy incineration.

"We have to make the best decision we can for everybody and it’s the economic and environmental impacts that we have to consider,” Nicholson said. 

To push their point, the Coquitlam Mayor sent a letter to Metro Vancouver last month on behalf of his city council, urging the regional authority to lay out the business case for building a new facility to incinerate garbage and turn it into electricity. 

 “Our Council has taken the position that we need that business case update in order to properly make the decision to proceed, and to that end I am formally requesting that an updated business case for Metro Vancouver’s WTE (waste-to-energy) strategy be provided...,” Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart said in a letter addressed to Greg Moore, the chair of the Metro Vancouver regional authority.


March 28 letter to Metro Van from City of Coquitlam mayor.

In the March, 28 letter, Stewart says that he spoke with a number of Metro Vancouver directors and other local elected officials in recent weeks, and said "there is growing concern that we appear to be proceeding down a path, and spending tax dollars, without all the current facts and a strong public policy basis to proceed.”

Stewart says Coquitlam first requested a business plan in a 2011 letter to the minister of environment and through several requests to Metro Vancouver staff. He also said members of the Zero Waste Committee have raised questions about the lack of a clear business case for the incinerator in meetings in February and March.

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