Durham Region accused of “bullying” for terminating mediation into Clarington anaerobic digestion facility

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Published December 10, 2021 at 4:53 pm

The Region of Durham is being accused of being a “bully” for terminating the mediation process into a controversial anaerobic digestion facility in south Courtice.

Oshawa Councillor and former Mayor John Gray made the accusation while promising to introduce a motion at Monday’s Oshawa Council meeting in support of Clarington’s request for an Environmental Assessment into the proposed facility.

“It’s a project that hasn’t been tried before here,” Gray said, citing the plastics that will be introduced into a “co-mingling” process. “Maybe they’ll get accolades for this down the road, maybe they won’t. Maybe these concerns are not anything.”

“But isn’t that what the EA will tell us?”

In a letter written by Durham Chief Administrative Officer Elaine Baxter-Trahair to her counterpart in Clarington, Andrew Allison, the mediation process between Durham Region and Clarington – initiated to clear up concerns over the facility – has been “terminated” by the region because of the municipality’s “delays, lack of engagement and activity in the media.”

Elaine Baxter-Trahair wrote she was “disappointed” to discover Clarington Council was still demanding the provincial environment ministry perform an environmental assessment on the proposed facility “in the midst of the mediation.”

Baxter-Trahair said the November 4 motion asking for the EA, along with an article published online that included quotes from Clarington councillors on the subject, was the tipping point in terminating the mediation process.

“Despite Durham’s efforts, it is apparent that Clarington is not committed to this mediation process,” she said. “Clarington’s delays, lack of engagement and activity in the media – combined with its November 4 Council motion – do not demonstrate a willingness to work collaboratively and proactively with Durham to resolve its concerns.”

Gray, citing recent litigation between Durham Region and the Township of Brock over a 50-unit supportive housing project, said it was not the first time the Region has tried to “bully” municipalities into getting what they want.

“The Region has been doing a lot of bullying lately,” he said.

In the letter, Baxter-Trahair claimed that Durham Region would have been willing to “explore alternatives” to the current site on Courtice Road South – right next to the $300 million boondoggle that is the Durham-York Energy Centre, near the planned site of the new headquarters for Ontario Power Generation and not far from where a future Courtice waterfront park and GO station will be – as part of the mediation process.

Since the site was selected after an exhaustive process and the lands are owned by Durham Region, that could be an empty promise, but it’s moot now after Durham terminated mediation.

“To be clear,” Baxter-Trahair said, “Durham agreed to this mediation as a gesture of good faith to its municipal partner (but) for the reasons noted above this mediation process has failed. The meditation is no longer promoting the best interests of Durham Region as a whole and, accordingly, is terminated as of the date of this letter.”

“Durham … will be proceeding with its development as planned.”

The anaerobic digestion systems are popular in Europe and have recently gained favour around the GTA as the best way for municipalities to meet their emission targets because of their ability to compost organic waste and produce a renewable natural gas (methane) with little emissions or strong odours.

They promise to remove non-combustible material and recyclables from garbage currently sent to the incinerator and would allow pet waste and dirty diapers to be put in green bins.

Some Clarington councillors, however, call them “rotten food factories,” citing odours and other environmental concerns.

Baxter-Trahair said in the letter there is an “urgent need” to move forward with an enhanced waste management program that will increase diversion of organics and other materials that “do not belong in the disposal stream.”

She added that the proposed facility will help Durham achieve its 70 per cent diversion goal, a “significant environmental sustainability objective for the benefit of all Regional residents and taxpayers.”

 

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