In a new press release, environmental groups from across Ontario blasted the Ontario government for “passing regulations that will weaken key environmental laws and allow massive incinerators to be fast-tracked without an environmental assessment and little public consultation.”
The groups say that new regulations are poised to undermine current blue box recycling and waste diversion programs by promoting the construction of controversial waste-to-energy facilities — multi-million dollar incinerators.
Ironically, the news release came out just as York Region north of Toronto is set to announce the short list of potential sites for its proposed waste to energy plant, the first mass burn waste plant to be seriously proposed for Ontario in several years.
“It is truly outrageous that the Ontario government is fast-tracking these controversial changes despite the fact that these incinerators produce 33 per cent more greenhouse gases per unit of energy than coal-fired power plants,” said Sierra Legal Lawyer and Economist Dr. Anastasia Lintner. “Recycling and reuse of waste can save more than 25 times the energy recovered by incineration.”
The groups say that regulatory changes were quietly released on Friday afternoon that include the streamlining of approvals for certain pilot or demonstration projects, such as incineration projects. This move, they say, would curtail public participation and will directly compete with existing recycling programs for materials with high-energy values such as paper, plastics and organics.
“The justification for the exemption of energy from waste facilities from full environmental assessment seems to be that they somehow will make a contribution to the province’s energy supply. Yet recycling products like newspapers and plastic containers uses far less energy than having to re-create that entire product,” added Pembina Institute Director of Environmental Governance Dr. Mark Winfield. “Recycling programs are simply a far more rational energy conservation strategy.”
“In our view, these regulatory changes are unjustified and contrary to the public interest,” stated Rick Lindgren, Staff Lawyer with the Canadian Environmental Law Association. “Waste incineration is an environmentally significant activity that should remain fully subject to the rigorous scrutiny and public participation requirements of Ontario’s environmental assessment process.”
“Incineration is simply not the solution to Ontario’s waste issues,” said Sierra Legal Senior Staff Scientist Dr. Elaine MacDonald. “The province says it wants to stop burning coal because it is a dirty source of energy, but at the same time it is promoting an even dirtier, much less reliable source — garbage.”
Over the past several months various groups submitted formal comments to the province highlighting concerns about the proposed regulations. The groups argue that the solution to Ontario’s waste woes begins with strong producer responsibility laws and citizen stewardship to reduce waste at the source.
“Ontario is not confronted by a waste disposal crisis,” said John Jackson of Great Lakes United. “In fact Ontario has recently approved millions of tonnes of new landfill capacity. The true crisis is one of waste generation — and Ontario has utterly failed in its efforts to curb waste generation and increase recycling.”
Many of the groups’ concerns are documented in an investigative report released today by the Canadian Institute for Environmental Law and Policy. The report, “Ontario’s Waste Management Challenge — Is Incineration an Option?” emphasizes waste reduction and diversion, while calling for Ontario to fund an independent assessment of incineration technologies to better understand the true costs and benefits of incineration before their implementation.
The report can be downloaded at www.cielap.org
For further information, please contact:
Dr. Mark S. Winfield, Pembina Institute 416-644-1016 ext.1, 416-434-8130 cell
Dr. Elaine MacDonald, Sierra Legal 416-368-7533 ext. 27, 416-564-4400 cell
Dr. Anastsia Lintner, Sierra Legal 416-368-7533 ext. 25
Rick Lindgren, Canadian Environmental Law Association 416-960-2284, ext.214
John Jackson, Great Lakes United 519- 744-7503
Carolyn Webb, Canadian Institute for Environmental Law and Policy 416-923-3529 ext.26