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Metro Vancouver likely to seek waste-to-energy approvals

Metro Vancouver will likely push ahead with a plan to burn waste to produce energy, despite the province's approval this week to allow the Cache Creek landfill to expand.

“At this point I don't think it's going to change Metro's plan,” said Marvin Hunt, the chair of Metro Vancouver's waste management committee. “I believe waste-to-energy is the most environmentally sustainable and most financially sustainable option.”

The committee will meet next week to consider a waste management plan that will include burning waste to produce energy. Hunt acknowledged the idea raises air quality concerns for people in the Fraser Valley, but argued modern plants can produce air that is as clean or better than what goes into them.

The plan will require approval from provincial environment minister Barry Penner, as will choosing a site when the time comes. Penner represents the Fraser Valley constituency of Chilliwack-Kent.

“I would hope the minister would make it on the basis of scientific fact rather than rumor, gossip and innuendo,” said Hunt.

Penner was unavailable for an interview Friday.

Hunt said the Cache Creek decision does give Metro Vancouver another option, though he did point out some oddities about the approval.

In 2005 when Vancouver was looking at using the Ashcroft Ranch as a landfill, the province told the city's representatives to deal with Robert Pasco and the Nlaka'pamux Nation Tribal Council, not the individual bands, Hunt said. “Now they've gone and given approval based on the bands, not the council.”

The change may have something to do with Penner's sensitivity to concerns in the Fraser Valley, as well as the “strong lobby” from former finance minister Gary Collins, Hunt said.

Collins is a senior vice-president with Belkorp Industries Inc., the parent company of the company that runs the Cache Creek landfill. Belkorp companies have donated almost $100,000 to the B.C. Liberal Party since 2005 and Ken Dobell, the former deputy to premier Gordon Campbell, has registered to lobby the province for them.

“These guys hired high powered help,” said Hunt.

Metro Vancouver pays $30 million a year to have waste taken to Cache Creek, he added. Extending that for 25 years, the upper range of the landfill's lifespan according to this week's announcement, would be worth in the order of $750 million.

Belkorps' Collins was leaving the office late Friday afternoon and said he didn't have time to talk. Asked if Monday would be better, he said, “I don't think I'm going to have any comment for you.”

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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