Port Fuels deciding next step with its Hamilton gasification plant

Robert Clark says he can't say yet whether Port Fuels will forge ahead now that the province has insisted on full environmental assessment.

The project has a 'tremendous number of supporters,' says project head Robert Clark

The proposed garbage plant would be on a site of leased land on Pier 15 on the Hamilton waterfront. (Courtesy of Port Fuels and Materials Services Inc.)

Port Fuels says it needs more information before it knows whether it will proceed with a controversial energy-from-waste gasification plant on Hamilton's waterfront.

In a surprise Dec. 18 decision, Ontario's environment minister determined the plant requires a full environmental assessment before it OKs the project on Pier 15.

The company hopes to meet with provincial officials in early January to learn more about what is required, said project head Robert Clark. Until then, he can't say whether the project will still go ahead.

"I can't say yes or no," he told CBC Hamilton this week. "Our intention has always been to proceed with this plant. That's what the (Ministry of Environment) has said as well. They're just asking for more information."

We have a tremendous number of supporters.- Robert Clark, Port Fuels and Materials Services Inc.

The Port Fuels and Materials Services Inc. plant would use the trademarked Gasplasma technology currently demonstrated at a much smaller plant in Swindon, UK.

The plant would be on federal Hamilton Port Authority land, so the city has little influence over the project. But earlier this year, city council asked the ministry to force a full environmental assessment, otherwise known as a "bump up." The ministry is granting that.

Port Fuels had undergone an environmental screening process, Clark said. The company feels that less stringent review should have been sufficient to address the ministry's questions.

"We submitted an extreme amount of information and have delayed for consultation purposes," Clark said.

"The proponent will always think they've submitted sufficient technical information."

For now, Clark said, he has few details on what the ministry wants. "The only thing I have for a basis is the letter."

In the letter the is referring to, the ministry says there are "significant issues" with the project, namely impacts to air quality, ground and surface water that need further investigation.

 It specifically cites several concerns:

  • It questions the completeness and methodology of it determination the project would no impact the city's air quality.
  • It says the company did not provide any assessment of potential impacts from  transporting waste by barge.
  • It is concerned about how the combustion byproduct, will be managed.
  • It  says the company did not sufficiently assess the impacts on groundwater.

There were a several requests to the ministry for a full environment assessment, including from NDP leader Andrea Horwath, Environment Hamilton, the city and some residents.

The bump-up request "means vindication for years of work by the residents," said Matthew Green, a Ward 3 councillor and opponent of the project, on Dec. 18.

Clark maintains that project opponents are the minority.

"We have a tremendous number of supporters," he said. "The majority of people are supporting this operation."

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