Citizens taking action ~ Vancouver, Lower Mainland, and beyond.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Metro acknowledges "political uncertainty" of waste incineration

In a landmark decision yesterday, the new Metro Board pulled back from a plan being quietly carried out behind the scenes to buy land slated for the first of up to six waste incinerators in our region. They had no choice, after being presented with a last-minute report from the Commissioner acknowledging that they might run into trouble with both the public and the provincial government.

This is a huge and welcome victory for the citizens of Sapperton/McBride neighbourhoods in New Westminster, who packed a hall last summer to learn about the hazards of the facility that their Mayor was still denying was planned for the nearby Canfor industrial site. (Their Mayor voted with all but one of his fellow Directors to "reject" the expropriation.) Before making their decision yesterday, they were reminded by New West resident Joy Foy who is also national campaign director for the Wilderness Committee about the health and environmental hazards of incinerators.
It is also a victory for the citizens of Port Moody who turned out in large numbers through a long hot summer of public meetings about their Council's proposed Plasco gasification plant. Their C0uncil, to its credit, took the time to hear from the public and then acted promptly on what they heard. This is democracy in action.

It is also a victory for the citizens of the Fraser Valley who, led by Abbotsford Councillor Patricia Ross and many other candidates for public office in the Valley, that this plan would go the same way as the Sumas 2 proposal a few years back.

And it's also a victory for "a broader organized interest group within Metro Vancouver" (which will remain nameless!). Zero Waste Vancouver's candidate poll in the 08 civic elections showed overwhelming opposition to incinerators among the region's most civically engaged citizens ~ including many who now have seats at the Metro Board.

Citizens have the politicians' attention. Now it is up to us to show them a better way forward. We'll start by debunking the myth that our region is "running out of landfill space"...
But first Zero Waste Vancouver will participate in a meeting next week in Detroit where 100 anti-incineration from across North America will develop a common agenda for the transition from a Throw-Away Society to a Zero Waste Society.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Metro has been misleading the public about its incinerator plans

Tomorrow the new GVS&DD Board will consider a blockbuster report by the "Inquiry Officer" appointed to straighten out the fuss between Metro Vancouver and the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority over who gets the Canfor lands.

The two have been fighting over this plum piece of real estate in New Westminster, where Metro is determined ~ it is now on the official record ~ to build a waste-t0-energy incinerator using whatever means it can.

When the Port outbid Metro (offering to pay $10 million more than Metro's offer) Metro resorted to expropriation.
The Port called for an Inquiry into whether Metro was justified in using the "extraordinary and intrusive power" of expropriation.

The Officer appointed to look into the matter found that Metro had submitted conflicting testimony. GVS&DD Commissioner Johnny Carline had stated that Metro planned to build "primarily" a waste to energy incinerator, while Fred Nenninger, the manager in charge of utility planning, said Metro planned to build a whole "panoply" of waste facilities there.

But both admitted that Metro didn't really know for sure what it was going to build there. The Inquiry Officer, Bernd Walter, put it, mildly: “firm plans for all or any of these activities or facilities are not yet finalized, much less approved.”

Walter concluded his report with a recommendation that the GVS&DD go back to the drawing board and figure out what its "evolving plans" are before making a purchase decision.

My question: did anyone tell Marvin Hunt about this?

For months, Hunt has been busy shushing people who claim that Metro is planning to build incinerators. He has been saying that nothing is decided.

But this Inquiry Report makes it clear that Hunt and Carline and the Communications Department at Metro have been intentionally misleading the public. Indeed, we learn in the Report that the GVS&DD Board gave its authorization to go ahead with the purchase for that purpose.

They say justice is blind, but only if they pull the wool over her eyes.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Hello 2009! Plastic bags on the wane

Have we passed a Gladwellian "tipping point" in our attitude towards plastic bags?

Canwest writer Tiffany Crawford thinks so. She muses in an article this week that "double-bagging has become the new double-dipping." As long as a year ago Crawford preciently speculated that "Plastic bags could be a thing of the past." At that time all she could point to was actions by a single grocery store (Whole Foods -- a Gladwellian "outlier") and a couple of tiny communities that had banned the use of plastic bags. But this past year many little things seem to have made a big difference, and Canada's retail industry has seen the handwriting on the wall (isn't that what marketing departments are for?). They committed to cutting plastic bag use in half in 5 years.

This is a risky move for retailers, especially at a time when they are hard hit by a recession.

But while retailers are ready to solve the problem, the plastics industry is still in denial, continuing to push for taxpayer-funded recycling programs as a solution to the plastic bag problem.

Our local stores and communities will share in the benefits of Zero Waste. The plastics industry still has to learn how to adapt.