REM opponents crowd Rec Centre
Five hours, 544 pages, 814 submissions, more than 300 people, hundreds of hours of research, seven members of Port Hope council, three staff members and four representatives of Entech-REM. That’s what it took on the evening of June 24 to get one notice of motion seeking to quash a gasification/incineration plant proposed for Wesleyville.
Thursday’s statutory public meeting was a passionate affair, with speaker after speaker taking to the microphone to lecture, scold or plead with council to turn down REM’s applications for an official plan amendment and zoning change to allow the plant to be built near Ontario Power Generation’s mothballed generator site.
Representing REM were: Doug Starr, executive vice-president; Ron Richards, planning consultant; Lewis Staats, president of Grand River Green Power; and Blair Shoniker, environmental planner with Conestoga Rovers and Associates.
Staats told the meeting that REM was led to Port Hope by “an individual from here.” He said a recent survey had revealed that “63 per cent of residents are in favour of energy-from-waste.” And he touted the proposed facility as being a creator of energy and employment as well as an agent of diversion of waste from landfill.
But one by one, members of the audience called into question all of these claims.
One said the claim of survey support for energy from waste was oversimplified; that the survey question was prefaced with words to the effect that, “if the technology were proven to be safe.” That, he insisted, was why a high number of people said they would support it. But, he claimed, since the applicant operates no plants anywhere in the world, the technology cannot be deemed to be proven safe.
Others pointed out that the demand for energy in Ontario is on the decrease and asked whether REM has a contract to feed any energy it produces into the main grid. The answer was no.
Speakers also found fault with the issue of diversion of waste from landfill, pointing out that REM’s own literature admits that end-product ash would have to go to landfill, if no other use is found for it.
The 35 permanent jobs and 250 person-years of employment in construction that REM promised also failed to impress the crowd, who were more concerned about the particulate and the ash that would be produced from the burning of unknown materials from far-flung places.
One speaker expressed concern that some of the waste could be toxic or hazardous.
Several speakers were not even from Port Hope. At least two were from Cobourg, objecting on their town’s behalf that such a facility might be considered anywhere near them. Diana Storen told council members they were “selfish” to entertain the proposal, noting that health concerns, property values and the stigma of such a facility meant there is “no logical reason to proceed any further.”
Downtown business owner Don Sanderson said an incinerator on the east side of the municipality wouldn’t do tourism any favours.
“Business is tough downtown,” he said. “The downside (to the proposed REM plant) is far bigger than any upside.”
However, a written comment from Judy Selvig, director of economic development and tourism, said her department had “no concerns” with the REM applications.
Several speakers spoke passionately about agriculture, especially with regard to groundwater and particulate from the incineration process affecting vegetation and livestock.
Dr. Stan Blecher accused REM’s VP of “misleading” not only Port Hope council, but also the Parliament of Canada as to the effluent from the smokestack.
Blecher read from a transcript of proceedings from the House of Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, June 4, 2014, in which Doug Starr told the MP for Etobicoke, “Basically what comes out of our stack is carbon dioxide, water vapours….”
Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, Blecher pointed out, adding that REM’s own literature discloses that “18 carcinogenic and highly toxic… emissions would enter the air, the lakes and the ground.”
Virtually every speaker concluded with the request that council deny the applications and, at long last, that request was answered by Councillor Greg Burns, who proposed a notice of motion, to be voted on at the regular council meeting of July 29, that the REM applications be denied in order to protect public safety, and because of “overwhelming” community objection.
Burns’s remarks prompted a standing ovation.