Alert Nov 26, 2010

ZeroWaste4ZeroBurning.ca Alert Nov 26, 2010

In this alert:
1: Province approves EA and Durham Chair Anderson signs contract
2: What you can do about it
3: Province's approval leaves important details out
4: Durham newspapers gloat over approval
5: Can you pick up the baton?

1: Province approves EA and Durham Chair Anderson signs contract

In a one-two punch, the Ontario government approved the incinerator environmental assessment last Friday, and it was learned Thursday that Durham Region Chair Roger Anderson signed a long term contract with incinerator multinational Covanta.

Our media release reacting to the Liberal government's EA approval announcement is attached.

The final version of the Covanta contract is not known. A draft was included in the EA documents, but the latest version was kept secret and was withheld even from the members of the last regional council -- chair Anderson ruled out of order a motion that would have compelled him to present it back to council. Now that the contract is signed, it should be available as a public document.
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2: What you can do about it

Contact your mayor and regional councillors. Urge them to kick Roger Anderson out. We cannot afford four more years of his reign of error. Challenger John Mutton, though he carries some political liabilities from his term as mayor of Clarington, is at least responding to the call for a directly elected chair and has stated publicly on many occasions that he now opposes the incinerator. We are not endorsing Mr. Mutton, however we see him as the best alternative at the moment of the two known candidates for Chair. Re-appointing Mr. Anderson at this point, after his unilateral decisions and political maneuvering, would be rewarding him for thumbing his nose at Durham voters.

If nobody stands up to the bully, he gets his way and becomes even bolder.
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3: Province's approval leaves important details out

Reading through the Liberal government's press release (sent out last Friday afternoon in the hopes that nobody would notice), you would think that Ontario had the strictest pollution limits in the world. Reading through Minister Wilkinson's notice of approval however paints a different picture. Very important details on how emissions are to be monitored and reported were left to later. How often are the critical pollutants tested for? Many can be monitored continuously (or at least sampled), but the permits could just as easily specify once a year stack testing (with plenty of advance notice).

And even if you accept the statement that the limits are strict, one look at the revised "A-7" guideline for incinerators when it comes to dioxins and furans, a class of pollutants that include one of the most toxic substances known (TCDD). The Minister posted a version of the A-7 guideline in March 2009 for discussion and comments which dropped the limit from 80 pg to 32. But when the Minister released the final version of A-7 in October 2010, dioxin was back up to the old limit of 80. One must ask if the limit was raised to facilitate approval? Is there a problem with Covanta's process?

Granted, it's a tweaky point, but considering that the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment considers there is no safe level for dioxins and has called for their "virtual elimination" at the source, one needs to ask these questions.
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4: Durham newspapers gloat over approval

An editorial in the "This Week" and "News Advertiser" Metroland chain of newspapers praising the incinerator decision could very well have been written by the incinerator lobby. An Oshawa Express editorial stunning by its lack of factual arguments appears in this week's edition, along with a juvenile editorial cartoon. The Toronto Star -- parent company of Metroland -- piles on too, with the usual anonymous commenters having a field day at the bottom of the article.

Should a newspaper report the news? Discuss opinions? Of course. But there should be utmost respect for a balance of opinion backed by facts. Last month, the Metroland chain endorsed candidates, some with little justification. At what point does presenting arguments drift into sounding like a mouthpiece for Chair Anderson? Take a moment to consider the amount of advertising dollars the region spends in papers region-wide every week for full page ads for works, health and recreation. Could there be a link?

If there isn't a flurry of letters to the editor demanding a fair treatment of the facts and arguments surrounding the incinerator project, Durham's journalistic standards will continue to erode.
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5: Can you pick up the baton?

Outrages like the shoddy EA study and the signing of the incinerator contract negotiated in secret are bound to keep happening unless Durham Region residents stand up and voice their anger. At the moment there are too few working to keep regional politicians accountable, and even fewer keeping tabs on MPPs. As long as residents working to shine sunlight on shady deals and decisions that go against the public interest are seen as some sort of noisy discontent minority, the abuses of authority will continue unchecked.

We ask you to ask yourself "how can I help?", "what expertise can I bring?". The answer may surprise you: can you write? are you comfortable talking to strangers? can you read those horrid reports and see through the BS (buzzword soup)? Can you pull people together and unite them in a common cause? Do you know the law?

The task can be daunting but there are rewards too: a clear conscience, a chance to tell your children and grandchildren that you worked to make a difference in their lives so they can live in a better world.

Please consider this appeal and lend your voice, your efforts and your passion.

Together, we can make a difference.

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