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Horwath pressures Ontario to study environmental impact of Port Fuels plant

Andrea Horwath says she’s putting public pressure on the provincial environment minister to order a full environment assessment on the planned Port Fuels gasification plant on Hamilton’s waterfront.
NDP leader Andrea Horwath, right, chats with Steve Calverley from the South Sherman Community Planning Team, resident Heather Millar, Patti Encinas from the Sherman Hub and Lynda Lukasik from Environment Hamilton at city hall on Tuesday. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Andrea Horwath says she's putting public pressure on the provincial environment minister to order a full environment assessment on the planned Port Fuels gasification plant on Hamilton's waterfront.

The Ontario NDP leader and Hamilton Centre MP held a news conference Tuesday, flanked by community members and Coun. Matthew Green.

It's been a year since Horwath called on the ministry to order the full assessment, "bumping up" the project from a less stringent environmental screening it is now going through. Horwath said she doesn't know when the ministry will make a decision on that screening report, but given that so much time has passed, she wants to apply pressure.

"The minister needs to listen to the experts, listen to Hamiltonians and demand a full environmental assessment," she said.

Horwath makes the announcement with Calverley, Millar, Encinas, Lukasik and Coun. Matthew Green in the background. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Horwath isn't alone. City council has made a similar request, although even its own consultant says it's not likely. Coun. Sam Merulla it's "inevitable" that a decision will be made soon.

He won't be shocked if the ministry denies a bump up, he said.

"I'd be very surprised if they concurred with the community's needs because that's not reflective of how they've operated in the past," he said.

"The ministry is more of a consultant to industry as opposed to an enforcement branch. I suspect they'll rubber stamp whatever (Port Fuels) wants."

Port Fuels is planning an energy-from-waste gasification plant on waterfront land owned by the Hamilton Port Authority.

The company says the plant will use gasplasma technology, which is ecofriendly and cutting edge, to process waste from around the harbour.

But those opposed worry about the project's impact on the environment and Hamilton's image.

What I don't want to happen is a decision to be made in the dark of night.- Andrea Horwath

Environment and Climate Change Minister Glen Murray has final say on screening report and whether the project should be bumped up.  She said the environmental screening is not enough.

Ontario's independent environmental commissioner, she told media, has said that the ministry hasn't provided science-based rationale for moving away from full environmental assessments.

Robert Clark of Port Fuels said the technology has been reviewed by "many experts internationally and domestically."

So far, he said, the project aligns with Ontario environmental policy.

"Technically, we have met all their requirements so the request for a bump up by procedure and policy needs to have technical merit," he said.

"I believe we're offering to Ontario a very beneficial use for waste that's not currently being addressed."

But Horwath argues that the technology is relatively untested —this would be the first commercial scale application of the technology —and that means it should have a full assessment.

"This process has dragged on for some time," she said. "What I don't want to happen is a decision to be made in the dark of night without the minister and the government and the Liberals being clear about what the position of the city of Hamilton has been and a number of other activists."

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