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April 19, 2009

New Incinerator in Ontario

ENVIRONMENT - Ontario is contemplating building a garbage incinerator and has contacted North America's largest incinerator company to build and operate an incinerator in Clarington Ontario that will burn 140,000 tonnes of garbage every year from Durham and York regions.

Covanta Energy Corp., based in Fairfield, New Jersey, operates 35 facilities in the United States, is waiting to be approved to construct the $236-million plant. It will be capable of generating 20 megawatts of power by burning unusable garbage (material that currently can't be recycled or turned into compost) once the facility begins operating in 2013.

(If this feels like a step backwards, you're right. What they should be doing is building a recycling plant that can recycle ANYTHING.)

The Durham council will receive the proposal on April 22 – Earth Day – and a final vote is expected June 24.

The new incinerator will be the first to be built in Ontario in nearly 20 years, and if approved, Covanta would design, get the necessary permits, build and operate the new incinerator under a 20-year contract. They would also get two options for five-year extensions. The plant will also be built with the option to expand to 400,000 tonnes per year... suggesting they may decide to take in more garbage from the Greater Toronto Area.

Covanta will also be paid $14.7 million a year to run the facility and would be paid using federal gas tax revenues.

Covanta has guaranteed that the facility will be able to produce 767 kilowatt-hours of electricity for every tonne of waste processed, the equivalent of how much a small household uses every month. At full operation, that's enough to power nearly 12,000 households for a year. Or 34,000 homes if its expanded to 400,000-tonnes-per-year.

In December 2008, Ontario's Energy and Infrastructure Minister George Smitherman directed the Ontario Power Authority to purchase electricity from Durham-York's proposed incinerator for 8 cents per kilowatt-hour. Sounds silly? The OPA is selling that electricity for less than 6.5 cents/kWh and taking a loss.

In other words the OPA will spend $8.59 million a year... but they will save more than $15 million a year in landfill fees and the millions in transporting residual waste to a landfill.

A future source of revenue could also come from capturing heat from the facility and selling it to surrounding businesses, industry and households as part of a district heating system.

Critics warn the excessive emissions will cause environmental damage and the likelihood it will stifle expansion of recycling programs.

Last year, Pennsylvania's environmental protection department fined Covanta in October for exceeding emission limits, while Michigan residents are pushing for the closing of a controversial Covanta plant in Detroit.

Covanta says plant emissions will be well below provincial standards and the electricity it produces will offset coal-burning generation in Ontario.

So... burning garbage is better than burning coal. So they say. That doesn't make it better overall however. What we really need is better recycling facilities that can recycle EVERYTHING.

And as for offsetting coal-burners... whats the point of all those windmills and solar farms we're building right now unless its to eliminate the use of coal?

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