The debate over a proposed garbage plant on the waterfront became stronger and more emotional this week as city staff concluded that the city won't be able to use zoning rules as a block to the project.
Here's what is next for the project:
Company will submit additional materials to province
The plant's developer, Port Fuels and Materials Services, submitted an Environmental Screening Report in December, and the provincial Ministry of Environment has asked the company for more technical documents and information to evaluate the report.
"We're still in the early stages of that review," said Ministry of Environment spokeswoman Kate Jordan.
The company is working with the province to fill in those additional answers, said Port Fuels Chief Operating Officer Robert Clark. Clark said he doesn't have a projection on when the company hopes to break ground, but said, "I've always established the timeline as trying to get all the regulatory approvals by summer," Clark said.
City consultant will come back with review mid-April
The city is paying consultants WSP Canada to file an independent review of the proposal. That report is expected back mid-April. The firm has already raised warnings about the technology the company is proposing, saying it's untested at the scale of the Hamilton project.
WSP is finalizing its report and will be sending it to the city "shortly in order to assist in their decision-making" said WSP Hamilton manager David MacGillivray.
It's unclear what those decisions will be since it's now understood the city holds no regulatory authority over the project. The project site is on Pier 15, federally owned Hamilton Port Authority lands. But the city can provide comments via the screening process based on its own expert's review, raise questions and request conditions, although the ministry has no obligation to act on any of them. The city has special extension from the ministry until the end of April to provide comments.
Ward councillor says he will push for more environmental scrutiny
Coun. Matthew Green said Tuesday he plans to ask council to support a request for a "bump up," which means the project would be evaluated under a full provincial "Environmental Assessment," instead of the lesser "Environment Screening Report" process the company is in.
Jordan said the Ministry of Environment has already received requests from the community that the project be considered for a "bump up" and it is evaluating them.
In addition to the environmental review, the company will still have to file applications to build and operate the facility, like air quality, waste, noise and wastewater considerations.
Clark believes the company is prepared, should a bump-up be ordered. He said it took him attending only one Hamilton open house about the project to determine that he should complete a technical report as if the project was subject to the highest review.
"As far as me and my experts are concerned, we intentionally went in there to make sure that we would have all of the technical pieces, to make sure that all of those technical answers that are present."
Further provincial approvals
In addition to the environmental review, the company will still have to file specific applications to the province to build and operate the facility, covering off air quality, waste handling, noise and wastewater considerations.
Community members will hold an event
A group of community members who oppose the plant called "Trash the Garbage Plant" will hold a forum with environmentalist Paul Connett at City Hall on April 10 at 7 p.m.
The group has held protests to garner opposition to the project on health and environmental grounds.