In Canada, the federal government has been doling out funding to the waste-to-energy (WTE) sector, with billions of dollars available both for WTE companies and for municipalities to invest in WTE incineration via P3s.
For years, the point-man on the WTE incineration issueat the federal level has been Bob Mills, the five-term (1993-2008) MP from Red Deer, Alberta, and one of the original Reform Party MPs. Before retiring from office in 2008 to become the registered lobbyist for Ottawa-based Plasco Energy Group, Mills was the Alliance/Conservative environment critic (as of 2001), then a member of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development (2005-2007), and then Chair of that powerful Committee (2007-2008).
By 2005, Mills had become a committed believer in gasification WTE incineration for MSW and had convinced his Red Deer constituency to take a trip to Germany to see WTE incineration in action.
In that same year, Plasco brought Ottawa businessman Rod Bryden on board as President. Toronto’s Now Magazine (April 5, 2007) called Bryden “a deep Liberal insider, the largest single donor to [Ontario Premier] Dalton McGuinty’s 1996 leadership campaign ($10 grand) [and] co-chair of Stephane Dion’s leadership transition team.”
With a high-profile Liberal insider on board, and a Conservative MP endorsing gasification technology at the federal level, Plasco was in a prime position to benefit no matter which of these political parties was in power in Ottawa.
Since 2005, Plasco has received $9.5 million from Sustainable Development Technology Canada, a $4 million non-interest loan from the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, and $8 million per year from the City of Ottawa, as of 2008.
In October 2007, the Central Waste Commission of Red Deer County – comprised of 15 Alberta municipalities – signed an agreement-in-principle with Plasco for a WTE gasification incinerator.
The Plasco Fiasco
Meanwhile, Plasco’s Ottawa demonstration plant, which received permits to gasify 85 tonnes of MSW per day, has been plagued with technical problems for years. Of course, that didn’t stop the company from pitching gasification across Canada and around the globe.
One of those pitches was to the City Council of Port Moody, BC, which in June 2008 entered into a non-binding letter of intent with Plasco to look into the feasibility of building a WTE incinerator to handle 400 tonnes of MSW per day, most of it coming from Metro Vancouver.
Elaine Golds, conservation chair for the Burke Mountain Naturalists, was involved in the community’s fight against the WTE incinerator, which ultimately led to Plasco withdrawing from its participation with Port Moody in October 2008.
Says Golds, “The real game-changer for me was finding out what a fraud the whole process was.” The Ottawa demonstration plant…
Joyce Nelson is a freelance writer, visual artist and author of five books