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Community group backs the Port Fuels gasification plant

A neighbourhood group for the community closest to the proposed energy-from-waste plant says it’s not only in favour of the plant, but it welcomes the jobs.
The proposed gasification plant would be on a site of leased land on Pier 15 on the Hamilton waterfront. The Keith Community Hub says it's in favour of the plant. (Courtesy of Port Fuels and Materials Services Inc.)

A neighbourhood group for the community located closest to the proposed energy-from-waste plant says it’s in favour of the plant and welcomes the jobs.

The Keith Community Hub supports the proposed Port Fuels and Materials Services Inc. gasplasma plant, the group said in a media release Monday.

Its main concern was health, said Stephen Rowe, project lead with the Keith Community Hub.

We also welcome the potential of 30 to 50 good-paying jobs for our neighbours at the new plant.- Stephen Rowe, Keith Community Hub

But after working with the company and its environmental consultants to understand the project, “we are satisfied that the data shows there will be no unhealthy effects on residents of the Keith neighbourhood,” Rowe said in the release.

“We also welcome the potential of 30 to 50 good-paying jobs for our neighbours at the new plant, as well as the potential for multiple spin-off jobs.”

The plant has drawn mixed views since Port Fuels went public with its plans last year. 

The plant would be on Pier 15 land owned by Hamilton Port Authority. It would use a process called “plasma gasification,” which uses extremely high temperatures to break down waste into its atomic elements and turn it into gas. Port Fuels has used the technology at a test plant in Swindon, UK.

Last week, the city’s consulting engineering firm WSP expressed concerns about the scale of the operation and the technology it would use. Port Fuels says it welcomes a third-party environment assessment, while Coun. Matthew Green of Ward 3 called it another red flag about the environmental risk.

A 'science project'

Andrea Horwath, Ontario NDP leader and MPP for Hamilton Centre, called the plant “a science project.”

“All the assumptions, all the projections, all the precautions proposed for this unproven technology were based on one tiny pilot project in England,” she said.

The hub examined the project for months and didn’t reach the decision lightly, Rowe said. It came from a series of “open and candid” discussions with Port Fuels.

“The Keith Hub paid attention to all sides of the debate over the plant.”

One of the biggest misconceptions, Rowe told CBC Hamilton, is that the technology is unproven. Both gas and direct plasma technologies have been around for more than 100 years, he said.

“It’s taking two already established technologies.”

The WSP letter disputes that notion, saying the idea that the technology is proven "requires further review," in part because of differences between the Swindon plant and the planned Hamilton one. A Hamilton plant using the two technologies "would be the first commercial implementation of this type in the world," it says. 

Green says the Keith Hub stance doesn’t represent the majority of people he’s talked to in that neighbourhood. He’ll keep opposing it until he sees good evidence that the majority feel otherwise.

“There’s a handful of people in that community that are not opposed to it,” he said.

“They reserve the right to take whatever position they like,” he said. “I just know overwhelmingly that there’s major opposition to this project.”

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