Council Extinguishes Incineration Proposal
by Andy Rice, Powell River Peak, July 19, 2012
Motion carried July 19 shows city is against waste-to-energy facility
BREAKING NEWS: At a special council meeting held at 9 am on Thursday, July 19, City of Powell River councillors sent a clear message against the development of a waste-to-energy project in Powell River. Wheelabrator Technologies Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Waste Management, has been looking at sites outside of Metro Vancouver and has recently considered Powell River as the potential home for a new incineration facility.
Councillor Russell Brewer brought the following motion to the table: “Whereas council has adopted a sustainability charter that identifies the three pillars of community sustainability as environment, society and economy and whereas it is incumbent on council to consider the social and environmental well-being of the community when contemplating opportunities to diversify our economy, be it resolved that council does not support an incineration facility in Powell River.”
The motion passed with only Councillor Maggie Hathaway voting against.
“I haven’t had the opportunity to actually hear their proposal,” she said. “I’ve never met anybody from there and I wouldn’t mind actually hearing what they have to say prior to making a decision. I don’t know, if we’re just going to say ‘go away, we’re not doing it,’ is this going to put the brakes on the whole show?”
Formosa then read the motion again for clarification. “We understand that they have the Section 21 option, but other than that I think that if this passed that’s the message it would send,” he said.
According to Section 21, a provision in the city’s charter that has been in place since Powell River incorporated in 1954, “no by-law or other law or regulation of the council [shall restrict commercial activity] or…fumes, gas, vapour, smoke, dust, cinders, vibration, electricity, noise, or explosion,” on mill property. Wheelabrator’s proposed site for the waste-to-energy facility was to be on Catalyst Paper Corporation Powell River mill land.
Hathaway said in voting no she was in no way showing support for incineration, but simply felt as though she did not have enough information at that time. “Bearing in mind that we’re always told we must keep an open mind and that to every issue there’s two sides, I haven’t heard their side and I don’t believe that they’ve been given a fair shake,” she said.
The other councillors reminded Hathaway that Wheelabrator Technologies had made a presentation at a previous meeting but as she was on vacation at that time, she was not in attendance to receive the information booklet that was given to the rest of council.
While he said he supported the motion, councillor Jim Palm echoed Hathaway’s concerns surrounding its timing. “I agree with councillor Hathaway to some degree in that we may be pushing the envelope a little faster in dealing with Wheelabrator,” he said. “It’s always courteous to let somebody down nice and easy and I’m not sure how that will play out. I’m sure the mayor may have a few more comments on that line.”
“There has been reams of information and it’s been a hell of a conversation and anyone who wanted information on this could have found it real quick real easy, but regardless, I also understand the process point that you’re trying to make,” said Mayor Dave Formosa to Hathaway. “I wish we had an opportunity to make that process point.
“We were all in an information session together and I sort of did what councillor Brewer just did now and sent the signal to these folks that maybe you shouldn’t be spending any money because we don’t want you to waste your money. We also are good business people here in Powell River and we’ve got to do business with other people and we’ll be judged how we treat this lot and that’s what concerns me at this time, not the fact that we’re doing it. It’s how we get judged from other industries who may want to come here. I would have liked to have another week to deal with this, but we’re here now and that’s all there is to it.
“I can tell you, there’s a lot of people that want this,” he said. “They’re out there and believe me, they’re part of our community as well. We represent everybody and I can tell you there are people that support this.”
Formosa then called the vote.
Councillor Chris McNaughton called council’s decision a good resolution. “It doesn’t stop Wheelabrator from doing the work that they want do to in terms of consultation to the community if they’re going to locate on Catalyst lands, but it does send a message to our constituents that council has given consideration to this and it’s not an economic initiative that we would like to see in this community, and I think that is an important message,” he said.
“It says absolutely nothing against Wheelabrator,” said Councillor Debbie Dee. “This has to do with Powell River and our community sustainability charter and where we’ve said we want to go in the future.”
Brewer said that he thought that council had given Wheelabrator a fair chance to make their proposal. “They may not have come to the community. They could have done that earlier perhaps, but I don’t feel we owe them anything. This is just stating how we feel as a community and whether they choose to carry on or not is their initiative. We’re just saying that an incineration facility is not a good fit for Powell River; not where we want to be in 50 years. We should focus on these other things that we have in play.”