After 8 quiet months, the Port Fuels gasification plant is still simmering

Those against the plant hope this is a good sign. The company won't say. "These regulatory processes take time," says the Hamilton Port Authority.

Ontario's environment minister called for a full individual environmental assessment

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.)

It's been eight months, and Port Fuels is still deciding whether to move ahead with a controversial energy-from-waste gasification plant on Hamilton's north shore.

It would be nice to know one way or another.- Lynda Lukasik , Environment Hamilton

But those opposed to the project hope in this case, no news is good news.

Ontario's environment minister ruled in December that the project requires a full individual environmental assessment (EA), otherwise known as a "bump up." Only then will the province OK the project on Pier 15 that uses the trademarked Gasplasma technology.

Eight months later, there's been little movement. Port Fuels and Materials Services Inc. is still deciding whether to pursue it.

"We are still working with the ministry on our project," said project head Robert Clark in a short email to CBC Hamilton.

For the province's part, it's not taking any action until Port Fuels decides if it will go ahead, said MOE spokesperson Gary Wheeler.

As with many developments, these regulatory processes take time.- Larissa Fenn, Hamilton Port Authority

Lynda Lukasik, Environment Hamilton executive director, hopes that means Port Fuels is ready to abandon the plant. Her agency asked for the province for the bump up, as did Hamilton city council.

"It would be nice to know one way or another," she said.

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 last year. Horwath called on the Ministry of Environment to request a full individual environmental assessment, which it granted. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

The issues date back to 2014, when Port Fuels held public meetings about the proposed plant. The project at the north end of Sherman Avenue would use technology demonstrated at a smaller plant in Swindon, UK. It would turn an estimated 170,000 tonnes per year of non-hazardous waste into gas, and process another 30,000 tonnes of steel using a direct plasma process.

The plant would be on federal Hamilton Port Authority land and, Port Fuels says, use waste from around the bay. The company went through an environmental screening process, which Clark said should have been enough to answer the ministry's questions.

"We submitted an extreme amount of information," Clark said in December.

The city's consultant, WSP Canada, warned last year that the province rarely grants bump ups. Andrea Horwath, Ontario NDP leader and Hamilton Centre MPP, also publicly joined the call. In December, the province granted it.

HPA has a temporary lease with Port Fuels on a "due diligence" basis it awaits approvals, said spokesperson Larissa Fenn. This is a standard practice.

"As with many developments, these regulatory processes take time," she said in an email. 

No construction takes place during a temporary lease, she said, which "is counted in months rather than years, and may be extended."

Chad Collins, Ward 5 councillor, said a project dragging on typically means the "provincial process has run interference" and they're not going to proceed. He hopes that's the case. 

Matthew Green, a Ward 3 councillor, hopes that too, but isn't so sure.

"I always watch closely these types of projects," he said. "If you don't, you wake up one day and read in the headlines that the approvals have been met and they're going to start construction."

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