The company behind the proposed east-end gasification plant is seeking a host of provincial and federal approvals, but isn't prepared to admit it needs city zoning approval, which one councillor calls "a little bit scary."

And neither did it definitively rule out bringing in waste from outside Hamilton.

Port Fuels and Materials Services hopes to operate a waste-to-energy facility on Hamilton Port Authority lands in Ward 3. It’s negotiating with the authority for a 20-year lease, with options for 10-year consecutive extensions, said Robert Clark, the company’s project head.

'I feel no more comfortable today than I did prior to the meeting.'- Ward 5 Coun. Chad Collins

Clark fielded questions from councillors at a board of health meeting on Thursday. He told councillors that the plant won’t be “a significant source of air contaminants relative to existing sources in the area.”

The proposed plant would use a gas plasma technology with extremely high temperatures to break down waste into its atomic elements and turn it into a gas that can be used in engines and turbines and as a substitute for natural gas.

Port Fuels is doing a number of studies to meet Ministry of Environment criteria, including studies related to surface water, traffic, human health and geology.

The provincial and federal governments will grant the lion’s share of approvals for the public. But city council has been told by staff that the project isn't a permitted use under current zoning and will need a zoning change approved by the municipality.

That could be difficult given the number of councillors who are vocally against the project. But Clark did not mention any municipal approvals in his presentation. 

No contact with city

Coun. Chad Collins said he found it odd that the company had initiated a range of costly studies to get federal and provincial approvals but had not connected with the city on zoning.

"I would think that you would go through the rezoning application first and then go to provincial and federal process," he said.  He has been concerned that the project would us a federal exemption for "shipping and navigation issues" to avoid a rezoning application. 

The city has also emailed Port Fuels to request a meeting and still hasn't heard back, Collins said. In fact, he said, Clark's presentation Thursday is the only time he knows of that the company has ever approached city hall.

"I asked the same questions as I did at the open house in April, and the fact that they have yet to reach formally to the municipality, to our staff, the fact that they’re unclear right now in terms of what they think they’re required to do from a zoning application, I think is a little bit scary."

The company is negotiating feed supply agreements for the waste and hopes to use waste from properties in the harbour and surrounding industrial area "as much as humanly possible," not completely excluding that waste would be brought in from outside the city.

Collins wasn't happy with the vague wording on either issue. 

"I feel no more comfortable today than I did prior to the meeting," he said. 

Coun. Bob Morrow plans to introduce a future motion that the city formally opposes the plant. The board of health is also requesting a city staff report on what approvals will be necessary for the plant.