Duke Point waste to energy incinerator – it’s not over yet

Have the citizens of Nanaimo been tricked into complacency by Nanaimo Council’s unanimous NO vote to the Duke Point waste to energy incinerator?

Today, April 15th, 91.7 Coast FM reported:

“The Chair of Metro Vancouver’s “Zero Waste Committee” says they’re still digesting Monday night’s Nanaimo City Council rejection of a waste to energy plant. And Malcolm Brodie says for now, they’re going ahead with Duke Point still in the mix.

Brodie says [unless] the group proposing Duke Point formally withdraws that would put an end to it. He also rejects criticism of how Metro has handled the process, saying they’ve tried to be “open and inclusive.”

A site near Port Mellon on the Sunshine Coast is also on Metro’s short list, and a public meeting is planned for May 24th in Gibsons. A similar meeting is supposed to happen in mid-May in Nanaimo, but it’s no longer clear if it will go ahead.”

Does Metro-Vancouver’s statement make Nanaimo’s motion null and void? What about the citizens of Nanaimo and Gabriola, do they not have a say?

Seaspan’s John Lucas stated in the meeting on Monday night that, “We are obviously conceding to the fact that this is not a project that at this time Nanaimo wants to see.” (but maybe later?)

Mayor Ruttan, in his opening report chose his words carefully:

“Council doesn’t control the outcome of this process…Metro-Vancouver couldn’t confirm if Council’s vote would have any influence on their decision.  It is important to note if Council choses not to support the project Metro Vancouver could still proceed with the application at the proposed site at Duke Point because it is correctly zoned for that type of business purpose.”

The final decision on the waste to energy incinerator’s location won’t be made until 2016.

Municipal elections are coming up in November and Nanaimo Council doesn’t want to deal with this contentious incinerator issue.  Mayor Ruttan made it clear that a public information meeting in May would be “too late” i.e. too close to election time.

Keep the pressure up.  Let’s learn from Powell River and Spokane.

Take action:
Don’t sit around, take action now, sign a petition or email your comment to mayor&council@nanaimo.ca in Nanaimo and send an email to Metro-Vancouver’s waste to energy committee NWTE@metrovancouver.org.

SD68 budget: 44 full-time jobs to be cut

Every parent should make plans to attend the School District 68 public budget meeting on Tuesday, April 15 at 6 pm at NDSS (Nanaimo District Secondary School 355 Wakesiah Avenue). If you want to make a presentation, contact ckelt @ sd68.bc.ca or call (250) 741-5238 before noon on Monday, April 14.

This meeting is important because the Nanaimo-Ladysmith Board of Education is in the process of setting the SD68 budget for 2014-15 which is facing a $5.4 million shortfall next year. The Board is scheduled to make final decisions on the budget at a Special Board Meeting at 6 pm on Wednesday, April 30.

The proposed budget cuts total $6.8 million, which is $1.4 million more than the $5.4 million needed.

44 full-time jobs are planned to be cut. So far it appears that the following will be eliminated:

  • 19 teaching positions
  • all secondary teacher librarians
  • 3 elementary counsellors

Unless there is public outcry, there will be NO cuts to senior management who plan to:

  • reduce number of custodians
  • reduce staff as a result of school consolidations
  • reduce carpenter position
  • reduce one bus driver position
  • reduce education assistant contingency budget
  • change distance learning at secondary schools
  • restructure secondary school libraries
  • reduce transportation assistance budget
  • reorganize Learning Services zone teams
  • delay elementary school computer upgrading
  • align supervision aide positions with existing school-based positions
  • revise school clerical allocation formulas
  • reduce services at District Administration Centre
  • use 2012-13 operating surplus of $1.5 million
  • use $1 million from “clawback” in 2013-14 budget

The proposed budget reductions will be discussed in meetings set for Wednesday, April 16th; Tuesday, April 22nd; and Monday, April 28th. All meetings are open to the public and will be held in the Board Room of the District Administration Centre at 6 pm.

Since 2011-12, SD68 received $12.4 million in a Funding Protection Grant, which is the highest amount received by any school district in the province, but this is  being phased out and it is expected that it will no longer be available in 2016-17.

Next year, the Ministry of Education grant to SD68 will be $1.7 million less than this year. SD68 district faces additional costs, such as benefits increases and utilities.

Serious problems for parents to consider:
Since 2004, there has been a 7.1% increase in the number of administrators. At the same time there has been a significant drop in educators.

Here are some stats for 2004-2009:
SD68: 10 more administrators hired, 13 less teaching positions.
SD69: 5.70 more administrators hired, 18 less teaching positions.

Unlike student/teacher ratios, there is no formula for the number of administrators in any of the province’s 44 school districts. Each school district is given a lump sum of money and it’s their choice on what to do with it.

Nowhere has School District 68 proposed to make up for the shortfall of money by cutting upper management. Why do they need 6 superintendents for over $1.3 million? It’s time for parents to demand more education dollars go towards their children.

Spokane incinerator – lessons for Nanaimo

What can Nanaimo learn from Spokane’s experience with waste to energy?

Spokane Spokane incinerator   lessons for Nanaimo

Spokane, Washington voted to have an incinerator in 1989. Twenty-three years later, the town is rethinking their decision.

Many citizens of Spokane, Washington, were skeptical about building a Waste to Energy (WTE) facility, but rather than listening to the people, Spokane’s elected council went ahead and approved the construction of a WTE incinerator.

Twenty-three years later, Spokane is currently undertaking a study to decide if it should take over the incinerator or return to using a landfill and having a comprehensive recycling program. This year, Spokane will decide if they want to continue with Wheelabrator. They have several concerns: the high cost of labour, cost of repairing the facility, high tipping fees, and toxins in the Spokane River.

The Vote
In September, 1989, armed Spokane police officers barred concerned citizens from entering City Hall. Only councillors and incinerator supporters were welcomed inside. Council voted to award a twenty year contract with Wheelabrator to design, build and operate a WTE incinerator in Spokane. The contract ended in 2011 and was renewed for three more years to end in September, 2014.

Tipping Fees
Spokane taxpayers were promised that after the high capital start-up costs (and associated bonds) were paid off, the tipping fees would be reduced, but costs kept increasing.

Tipping fees have steadily increased over the duration of the contract from an original cost of just under $40 a ton. Garbage trucks that dump trash at the incinerator now pay $99.50 a ton.  This could rise to $105 in the near future. These tipping fees have been kept artificially low by drawing down reserves.

The City of Spokane also pays to haul off the remaining 30 percent of the weight as ash. When Spokane’s trash incinerator is shut down for repairs, the City of Spokane saves money. This is because it’s cheaper to haul the entire city’s trash straight to the landfill 219 miles away in Klickitat County.

SpokaneRiver2 Spokane incinerator   lessons for Nanaimo

Spokane River is the most polluted in Washington State

Electricity and Threats 
In January, 1988, a deal was struck requiring Puget Sound Energy to purchase all of the incinerator’s electricity at an inflated price. Puget Sound Energy was threatened with a lawsuit if they didn’t take it.

The city pays Wheelabrator between $18 million to $21 million a year to operate the trash incinerator but the sale of energy produced by burning the trash only generates about $4 million a year. The U.S. Federal government is ceasing its grant program for electricity produced from WTE incinerators so the revenue will decrease.

Cast of Characters
Spokane attorney Dennis Clayton summed up the decision making:

“The problem at the core of this monstrosity is the cast of characters behind it,” said Clayton. “Every adviser the city looked to for guidance about building the incinerator stood to gain personally if the incinerator were built, but not otherwise. There wasn’t a single financial, engineering or city staff consultant who didn’t benefit professionally from construction of the plant.”

By the time Spokane’s incinerator was paid off in 2011, it cost the people of Spokane and Puget Sound hundreds of millions of dollars.

DisconnectedSupport1 Spokane incinerator   lessons for Nanaimo

Spokane incinerator needs $18 million in repairs. Many areas falling apart.

If Spokane decides to take over the incinerator they would have to spend $18 million for repairs. This would require improvement bonds, which in order to pay them off, would see tipping fees increase substantially to over $160 per ton.

Ashconveyor1 Spokane incinerator   lessons for Nanaimo

Lots of signs of neglect. Conveyor where hazardous ash is collected is full of rust holes

Importing Trash
The Spokane facility has been importing unknown/hazardous  waste from the oil fields of Alberta for four years.

In 2012 a U.S. government contractor sent 300 tons of food waste from Antarctica to Spokane to be incinerated.

Metro-Vancouver passes bylaw
Metro-Vancouver passed Bylaw 280 in October 2013 to stop shipping garbage to material recovery facilities outside city limits. Some believe this is to ensure all the garbage goes to the proposed incinerator.

With not enough trash to burn cities with incinerators have been forced to bid for trash on the open market, often at disposal fees far below what their own residents must pay. Tipping fees in Vancouver are at $107 per ton.

Who will give Vancouver a loan to build this incinerator for half a billion dollars? The province is almost bankrupt with a debt of $68 billion.

Burning Money
The average city in America with a population of one million, instead of spending money to throw its trash away, can earn nearly $800 million a year from its reuse, creating thousands of new local jobs and dozens of new locally owned companies.

If Spokane’s Solid Waste System serves a population of, say, half a million, they could have expected earnings of $400 million a year by shifting the region’s management strategy to waste recovery and recycling.

What does the City of Nanaimo plan for recycling? The non profit recycling drop off on Kenworth Road is about to close (Nanaimo Recycling Exchange).

Will other cities learn from Spokane’s experience?

Via Rail squeezes Vancouver Islanders for more money

On Tuesday, April 8th, RDN Director Marc Lefebvre of Parksville will put forward a motion of non-confidence in the Island Corridor Foundation (ICF) based on their “inability to negotiate an agreement with VIA Rail, and lack of information on how current taxpayers’ dollars and ICF revenues are being spent on necessary repairs.”

Via Rail President M. Laliberté said they won’t spend more than the $1.4 million annual subsidy it allocated to the Island route. In addition, they say they need a new station for Victoria and a new maintenance yard. The ICF has proposed to build a new Victoria station and move maintenance to Nanaimo, as long as Via Rail pledges $1.8 million to run their trains.

LadysmithTrainSt Via Rail squeezes Vancouver Islanders for more money

Via Rail train station at Ladysmith –  boarded up since 2011

Via Rail isn’t budging and now communities on mid-Vancouver Island want to get their money back from reserve. Time is running out.

Via Rail, a Crown corporation, had a contract to run passenger trains along the former E&N railway. In 2011, Via Rail deemed the tracks, owned by ’Southern Railway’ (a subsidiary of Washington Group, which also operates Seaspan), were too unsafe and withdrew its railcars from the Island.

In other areas of the country, Via Rail has cut service for similar reasons, including the Gaspé region of Quebec and a 70-kilometre line between Bathurst and Miramichi.

Over the last six years, Via Rail has been handed $2.3 billion from taxpayers in operating subsidies and capital grants. In 2012, Via Rail received $280 million from the Federal government; a seven percent increase from the previous year.

Via Rail says that it is not making money from these routes, but this is not true.  According to their financial report, there were actuarial losses on defined benefit plans of $101.2 million for 2012, compared to $288.1 million for the year 2011. Why should taxpayers suffer because of their own mismanagement?

Speaking of management, the following travel, hospitality and conference expenses were submitted during 2012 for a total of $256,441:

  • Paul G. Smith, Chairman of the Board – $7,983
  • Marc Laliberté, President and CEO – $36,430
  • Executive management committee members – $151,050
  • Board of Directors members – $60,978

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s appointee to the board of Via Rail in 2007-08 was Conservative Senator Leo Housakos, who had taken an illegal donation from Lino Zambito, of Charbonneau fame.

Transportation infrastructure on Vancouver Island:

How long can people travel on the Island highway without paying tolls? With the proposed increase in truck traffic, carrying coal, or toxic soil up the Mallahat, improvements to our highways will have to be made.

Islanders are paying for ferries while people elsewhere in the province ride for free. Who would listen or care if we were soon forced to pay a toll on our Island highway?

The time is now for the federal government to spend on transportation infrastructure on Vancouver Island.