Incinerator project draws threat of lawsuit from Nanaimo

NANAIMO – Council opposes waste-to-energy incinerator at Duke Point, plans to back up position with legal action and lobby efforts.

The City of Nanaimo will consider legal action if Metro Vancouver moves ahead with a waste-to-energy incinerator at Duke Point, says Mayor John Ruttan.

Nanaimo city politicians unanimously opposed a waste-to-energy incinerator at Duke Point Monday night, to thundering applause and standing ovations from more than 200 people crowded into the Shaw Auditorium at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre.

Now, two days after the vote, the mayor is also pledging the city will back up its opposition with potential lobbying efforts to the provincial government and legal action if Metro Vancouver opts to build an incinerator in Nanaimo in spite of the public’s wishes.

Nanaimo city politicians have been mulling support for a waste-to-energy project for close to a year, but opted last December to hold off on a decision until Metro Vancouver wraps up public consultation. But on Monday, Ruttan said the district’s public outreach offer, set for this May, comes “too little, too late,” and slammed Metro Vancouver’s date for announcing a final site in 2016, calling it “totally unacceptable” to Nanaimo.

“In conclusion, I do not want Nanaimo to be known as the garbage dump for Metro Vancouver,” he said.

Council’s decision on Monday has been met with disappointment from proponents, Wheelabrator Technologies, Urbaser and Seaspan, but the trio is not willing to concede the project yet. David Garcia de Herreros, representing Urbaser, said they will evaluate their options and weigh the pros and cons for the project in Nanaimo, but ultimately the decision on whether Duke Point remains a site in the procurement process is up to Metro Vancouver.

Metro Vancouver says it did not choose Nanaimo as a location and will leave it up to proponents whether they stay in the competition with the site.

If the proponents move forward, however, then the district will take “whatever steps are necessary for us to keep our procurement process moving,” said Bill Morrell, spokesman for Metro Vancouver.

That there’s potential for the project to continue to move forward is a concern for Ruttan, who says property zoning allows for the incinerator to be built even against the public’s wishes.

The city cannot change the zoning because it doesn’t like what a property will be used for, he said, but he stressed that the city would “aggressively oppose” an incinerator if Metro Vancouver chooses to build it in Nanaimo.

“The city does not want the project, our council voted unanimously to oppose it … and if they wish to ignore the wishes and views of the people … then we feel we have a mandate from our community to resist it in any way and that could take the form of litigation,” Ruttan said.