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Ministry of Environment response to 'biased' report must be considered, group says

A Canadian wilderness preservation group is calling on Environment Minister Barry Penner to halt Metro Vancouver’s garbage incinerator proposal after learning of concerns raised by Ministry of the Environment staff in a 2009 letter.

"There were some strongly worded concerns made by the ministry," Wilderness Committee campaigner Ben West told The Tyee. "We thought that it was pretty striking."

The ministry’s letter to Metro Vancouver challenged a key consultation report produced by AECOM Energy Industries, an Alberta-based company that operates an incinerator and holds membership with the Energy from Waste lobby organization. The report was used to weigh different waste management options for the region.

Ministry staff criticized the report for its bias toward waste incineration technology.

In the letter, Ministry of the Environment staff noted, "the green house gas calculations for waste management options do not seem to correlate with Environment Canada calculations." The letter also outlined potential issues associated with waste-to-energy technologies, including climate change and air quality.

Metro Vancouver Chief Administrative Officer Johnny Carline responded to the letter, stating that "all input received … has been or will be considered before finalizing the [Solid Waste Management Plan]."

For West, the 2009 letter outlining the ministry’s concerns reflects the provincial government’s awareness of potential issues associated with garbage incinerators.

"It is frustrating that Metro Vancouver has continued to tell elected officials and the general public that waste incineration reduces greenhouse gases, because that is inaccurate and misleading," the Winld a press release. "They have stuck to their misguided position even though the Ministry of the Environment raised similar concerns.”

West hopes that Minister Penner will take previous concerns into consideration when he reviews Metro Vancouver’s solid waste plan, he said. This includes possibilities for a new incinerator to cope with the Lower Mainland’s garbage.

"I guess it’s good to know that we’re pushing in the same direction," he said, "but it’s also frustrating that Metro has continued to disregard these concerns and act like incineration’s the best thing that’s ever happened."

"We want to make sure that the climate concerns are being recognized," West added. "But ultimately, we want the Minister of the Environment to amend the plan to not allow for a new incinerator to be built."

Metro Vancouver’s waste management plan, passed by board members July 30, must be approved by Environment Minister Barry Penner before further steps are taken.

Niamh Scallan is completing a practicum at The Tyee

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