The 10 or so centimetres of white stuff that fell on Tuesday wouldn’t be the only snow job that day. It seemed like there was a veritable blizzard at Council as the representatives for the Allanburg Energy From Waste Project made their pitch to the General Committee.
Just to explain, this project is to build a plant on Allanport Road, half-way to Port Robinson, which will take garbage (annually 140,000 tons – or tonnes – it sounds the same) and burn it to make steam which will, in turn, drive a turbine to create electricity. And it requires a statement of support “in principle” form the municipalities in order to move on to the next step.
The presentation started off with cute phrases like imagine a place “where trash becomes treasure” and claims of 200 (temporary) construction jobs and 50 eventual full-time jobs, creating enough electric power for 15,000 homes, while having an impact of $180 million on the Region (they didn’t say over how long). The Community Relations Officer then introduced the concept of the 4 R’s (and you just finally learned what the original 3 R’s stood for). The fourth one, apparently, stands for Recover which is what I, in my naiveté, thought was done with all recycled products at the recovery stations.
That rosy picture painted, the mayor then proceeded to point out that the Region, earlier that day, voted almost unanimously to support the project (one Regional Councillor was in the bathroom, we were told, so that counted as a “no” vote – apparently, in municipal government it’s forbidden to reserve judgment).
While several Councillors pointed out that they’d been given little information upon which to make their decision, no one would make the move to defer the item pending more information.
Councillor Paone would lead the charge in asking questions of the presenters. Just about everything he asked resulted in a reply from the tech that, first of all, it was a great question (they apparently all the questions were great, unilike the answers). The balance of the answer was that he’d get the Councillor information or an example of what’s done in Germany.
When Councillor Paone aske where the garbage would come from, summoning an image of truckloads of garbage being brought into Niagara, the reply he got was that they had a contractor who would figure out the sources. He might as well have responded with, “Hey! No problem! I got a guy.”
A common answer was that whatever it was, was well within government guidelines. As Councillor Paone would point out, government guidelines have little to do with safety and much to do with politics. And the additional reply that they meet EU standards and that the EU has the toughest in the world doesn’t really answer anything. Councillor Paone – and I – want to know what the levels are.
Mayor Luciani and the tech both leaned on the fact that their approval wasn’t an agreement, but just permission to move the process along. That, however, isn’t how the template they provided reads (you can read it for yourself – https://thorold.civicweb.net/filepro/documents/56?expanded=4338,4341&preview=4431 Page 226). Ignoring the comments on the company’s explanation, the wording on this template sure reads like support for the project.
I’m not opposed to the project per se, and I went to Council with an open mind about a project that could do a lot of good. I’d like to see new jobs and clean energy as much as the anyone. But I’m extremely disappointed that the company came asking for support and then provided no concrete answers, not before the meeting nor during it.
Also, I’m disappointed that Council, despite their misgivings, decided to vote in favour of the “support in principle”, all except Paone who abstained, counted as a “No” vote. The justification seems to be that this was just permission to go one to the next step, and the environmental organizations will rake them over the coals at the later steps. For a Council that historically asks staff for a half-dozen reports before deciding just about anything, they were awfully fast to pass this one.
I maintain that the responsibility lies right here with the representatives of the people who will be most affected if something goes wrong. And I’m not ready to just accept anyone’s word on it in light of the lack of information forthcoming, something that should have been both expected and offered by 1931146 Inc. Just remember, every technology is clean, safe and efficient, right up until the time that that it’s proven that isn’t.
By the end, I felt that the shovelling I’d been doing earlier that day wasn’t nearly done yet. I first had to dig out my table in City Hall.