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

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Gold River incinerator exempted from Environmental Assessment

The Covanta garbage incinerator proposed for Gold River BC was quietly granted an exemption from the Environmental Assessment process by an order signed on August 5th.

The considerations in making the exemption included "various community benefits" and "no apparent significant adverse effects of any type after mitigation."
The order also stipulates that the proponent (Covanta and partner Green Island Energy) will have to monitor the air quality.
They will also have to "assist" any regional districts that determine that they want to use the facility for managing their waste. No problem. A March 2008 Reuters announcement of the Covanta/GEI proposal noted: Negotiations with municipal governments, including Metro Vancouver, will be important in ensuring the continued progress of the Project.
A bit more detail about Gold River and the Covanta/GEI proposal was published on Forest Talk, Canada's "forestry blog." The story recounts the booms and busts of this small BC town, including the recent turn-around after their mill shut down, the locals moved out, and the houses were sold at auction to Europeans: Since then Gold River has reinvented itself as a west-coast tourism hub. Affordable housing, a friendly small town atmosphere, excellent civic amenities and a paved all weather road connecting it to the more populated eastern coast of Vancouver Island have helped fuel a rebirth of the community.

Wonder what those folks think about the incinerator proposal.
Pic: Covanta's destination for garbage from all over BC

We can't build a new economy on dirty energy

Economic hard times create opportunities for the opportunistic. Governments are desperate to spend bundles of cash on "infrastructure" just to show their citizens that they're not standing idly by while the economy crashes.

This gets the attention of politically connected entrepreneurs like Rod Bryden, who was profiled in the Globe and Mail last weekend. Read all about his glitch-ridden Plasco gasification technology that will flourish as long as it can count on government capital grants, municipalities paying him to use their garbage as fuel and electric utilities paying premium rates for dirty energy.

And the BC Liberal government's Speech from the Throne this week was a full-barrelled commitment to subsidizing "alternative energy." The government promised to "use all the means at its disposal" to suport this industry.

Ominously, the Throne Speech also promised to "outlaw" export of waste from the province. Are they looking at garbage as the alternative fuel?

That was the proposal in proposed "clean and renewable energy" guidelines put out for comment this summer.
The responses were sharply divided between citizens (who said the government should not under any circumstances encourage the burning of waste for energy) and opportunists (the longest submission was a consescending sermon from Covanta, who are expanding their incineration empire into BC by buying the company that operates the Burnaby incinerator and pitching an additional project in Gold River).

Jeff Nagel reports that the garbage industry is deploying politically-connected lobbyists in Victoria to get access to our garbage. Metro Waste Committee Chair Marvin Hunt complained to The Tyee that he's been "flooded" with calls.

Who will get the government's ear? Not us, unless we begin flooding them with calls of our own.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Big turn-out for Christina Lake meeting to oppose incinerator!

Last winter we told you about a preposterous proposal to build an industrial waste incinerator in scenic Christina Lake, BC. It looks like the community is not going to take this lying down.

Monica Phillips just wrote: The meeting last night was a huge success -- 400 people really energized with Paul [Connett] and Raimund (local presenter). It was very evident the huge numbers against this. Lots of plugs from Paul re the Vancouver incinerator situation -- you can watch the presentation when we get it up on our site. I'll let you know...

Check out this amazing video produced by two local kids to Protect Christina Lake. The future is in good hands...

Pic: - tourist destinations that will be lost if they build the incinerator.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Paul Connett Tuesday afternoon

If you're in town and want to relax with an interesting visitor next Tuesday afternoon, drop in to the SPEC Meeting Room. We'll have refreshments and a very stimulating discussion:

WHAT: briefing meeting for community activists to meet with a legendary environmental activist.

WHO: Dr. Paul Connett is a tenured professor of Chemistry from New York and Executive Director of the American Environmental Health Studies Project. During the 1980s and 1990s, Connett helped citizens across North America to block dozens of proposed waste incinerators. His Waste Not newsletter provided factual information to counter misinformation from incinerator salesmen.

Today, the incineration industry is on the march again, and Connett is responding by forming a new network to block the expansion of waste incineration and steer us on the road to Zero Waste.

WHERE: SPEC Meeting Room, 2150 Maple Street
WHEN: Tuesday, August 18, 2:00 pm

See you there!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Recycle your CareCard!!

I just received my new CareCard in the mail.

The new look reflects the evolution of BC's style. They've abandoned the cheery, vaguely Nautical red, white and yellow banner in favour of an understated, bronze pinstripe that smacks of Howe Street ...

But did you know your old card is "recyclable by manufacturer"? What do you expect, in the province that leads the world in Industry Product Stewardship? But there's nothing on the card telling us who takes them back.

I went to the Health Insurance BC website looking for instructions, kept digging, and found the following:

MSP is concerned about the environment and recycles the plastic of any returned cards. Old CareCards should be cut in half and returned to the address on the back of the card.

(They don't make this easy... it's a little like a Treasure Hunt.) Here's where to send your old CareCards: PO Box 1600 (I think - the embossing on the other side makes the address hard to read), Victoria BC V8W 2X9.

Let's inundate them and show we care.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Here we come, Covanta!

In the 1980s a powerful North American incinerator industry was hog-tied by local citizens groups.

Elected politicians in dozens of local communities were nodding in a torpor ~ a state of altered consciousness induced by the empty promises of incinerator salesmen. They were about to sign contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars that would have shackled the communities with debt (to say nothing of the unmeasurable impacts on their health and safety).

But in one community after another, citizens managed to snap their Mayors and Councillors out of their trance just in time. Over 250 waste incinerator projects across North America were cancelled between 1985 and 1995.

The citizens were successful because of a crackling information network that connected local communities together and dispensed the magic weapons they needed -- facts and figures that could dispell the misinformation from the incinerator salesmen and release their politicians from their daze.

That movement was led in large part by Paul Connett, who will be stopping through Vancouver next week. Connett is coming to BC to help the Interior community of Christina Lake. They need to talk some sense into the Kootenay Boundary Regional District Board, which will shortly be considering a proposal to burn petroleum waste from California in that bucolic corner of the province.

Connett says that the incinerator industry has risen from the ashes of its 1980s defeat, and in response he is pulling together a new citizens' movement to defeat it again.

The focus of the new campaign will be a company called Covanta Energy, which he describes as "a giant octopus." Like a lot of companies in the garbage industry, Covanta's strategy is acquisition. They grow by taking over other companies and then spreading into new communities.

We will be Ground Zero for a Covanta campaign. The company is taking over Veolia, who currently run Metro Vancouver's Burnaby incinerator. And they are also pitching a proposal to politicians to rescue the community of Gold River from economic ruin by building a big garbage incinerator.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Board of Trade speakers blast Metro study!

While I was away this summer the Vancouver Board of Trade convened a forum on Metro's waste situation. It can't have been a good day for Metro.

Both speakers sharply criticized the regional waste authority's current direction to build huge new waste incinerators. Economist Jeffrey Morris challenged Metro's assumptions about future waste volumes (Metro is basing its plan on a forecast of 75% recycling, while Morris says higher rates are possible).

Morris also stressed the need for the plan to include effective economic instruments to drive waste reduction, which will yield much better outcomes in the long run than infrastructure that competes against recycling (incinerators have to be fed...). See Morris's PPT here.

But most damning was the critique by accounting firm KPMG's Paul Levelton. He focused his remarks on the new study that Metro released last June (see the full AECOM Report here, or the Executive Summary here).

Levelton's presentation must have been humiliating not only for the report's authors (who include, incredibly, an appointed member of Metro's advisory panel on waste ~ talk about conflict of interest!) and also for the Metro employees who presumably reviewed and approved its release to the Board.

Levelton's presentation reads like the margin notes of a tough professor, pointing out elementary errors and omissions in a lazy student's work.

He opens with the statement: "a review of the recently released report by AECOM Metro Vancouver raises significant concerns that insufficient work has been done to make a decision on the future of waste management in the Lower Mainland, including an apparent preference for a waste to energy solution."

For instance, there's no financial risk analysis. There are no criteria for comparing different options. There is simply not enough information for the public to make meaningful comments or, most important, for political leaders to make informed decisions.

Levelton warned his audience that businesses in the region will bear more than half of the costs of Metro's ultimate scheme. He suggests ~ hopefully? ~ that there's still time for Metro to re-write the paper and get a passing grade.