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Proponents defend half-billion dollar incinerator as "least costly" way to deal with garbage

Mayor of Burnaby complains that months of tough questions bogging down process to build a $517 million, publicly-funded waste-to-energy incinerator. 27th in the series.

Burnaby mayor Derek Corrigan says there have been too may delays and too many demands in the incineration debate, and it's time to move on. Photo: Wikipedia.

Burnaby mayor Derek Corrigan has complained about 'new people' on Metro Vancouver’s Zero Waste Committee re-opening the debate on a $517-million dollar waste-to-incineration plan for the region's garbage. 

On Monday morning, an updated business case was tabled with the Metro Vancouver Zero Waste Committee. Paul Henderson, Metro Vancouver’s Solid Waste Manager says the report shows the large-scale incineration project is “the least costly" and most socially and environmentally responsible way to handle waste.

“One of the problems is that you get a lot of new people on the board who haven’t had the experience of going through the whole process, so you end up going back to try and re-argue issues that were argued five years ago,” said Mayor Corrigan during the meeting. “It destroys the process." 

Recently, however, the process has hit a few bumps. The Fraser Valley Regional District launched an expensive television campaign last fall opposing an incinerator anywhere in the Lower Mainland. And after months of angry emails and phone calls, the Nanaimo city council informed Metro Vancouver that it would not accept a possible incinerator on industrial land within the city.

Some councillors lobbed tough questions, including how the incinerator would get $100 per megawatt hour of electricity produced by burning garbage, and why newer technologies weren't being considered.

“I think we need a more comprehensive business plan -- I don’t support this plan," said Port Moody Councillor Rick Glumac, speaking after the meeting. He had been calling for an updated business case that examines newer, non-incineration technology, which was not included in the latest document. 

“I don’t think it is adequate and I’m very concerned about this because there is a lot of money at stake." 

Business case for incineration  

There have been growing questions over a plan approved in 2010 to build a 370,000 tonne per year garbage incinerator to handle future garbage from the greater Vancouver area, after reaching a 70 per cent recycling target.

Elected officials, the Fraser Valley Regional District, private waste hauling companies, citizen groups and environmentalists are concerned that the massive incineration plan has become more of a priority to Metro Vancouver than finding possible alternatives.

In April, Coquitlam mayor Richard Stewart wrote to Metro Vancouver a strongly-worded letter demanding an updated business case for the proposed waste-to-energy incinerator. His letter complained that “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.” 

Metro Vancouver Solid Waste Manager, Paul Henderson at Zero Waste Committee meeting.

Incineration a clean energy on par with wind farms? 

While some councillors, including chair and Richmond mayor Malcolm Brodie and District of North Vancouver councillor Roger Bassam agree the updated business plan is solid, a number of councillors strongly disagreed.

Vancouver councillor Andrea Reimer said that if electricity prices were to go down, the business case would become "dicey". She has been a vocal critic of the project over the past several years.

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