Pickles to pampers – assessing biogas north of Delhi

By MPP Toby Barrett

For close to a year now, we’ve been hearing of plans to convert the former Smucker’s cucumber tank farm into an organic waste processing and biogas cogeneration facility. The 75 acre tank farm has been purchased by Toronto-based Trade 360, the parent company of Erie Biogas Cogeneration and Organics Processing Inc.

As our area braces for an onslaught of 200 industrial wind turbines the government’s green energy gambit may be opening an entirely different can of worms north of Delhi.

Many will recall the tank farm’s establishment in 1998 by Robin Hood Multifoods, later to be purchased by J.M. Smucker in 2006. With 600 vats brining 60,000 pounds of cucumbers, the Delhi tank farm was one of the most modern in North America.

Fast forward to 2013 and we see a proposal to use the pickle vats as anaerobic digesters of organic waste thus replacing food processing with garbage and energy production.

The waste feedstock would be trucked from Toronto including not only yard waste but also diapers and other sanitary products – concerns abound about the types of materials that could be heading our way. When you want to ship garbage to another area you need an Environmental Assessment (EA). However if you have a green power proposal attached you can apparently circumvent the EA process and head straight for what’s called a Renewable Energy Approval (REA) – a process that largely shuts down local input.

While much of the news of the proposal has emanated from local municipal council meetings, as a renewable energy project, the plan would fall under the Green Energy Act (GEA), which means Trade 360 does not need Norfolk Council’s approval. That said, the Ontario Power Authority does give priority to green energy projects that have municipal support. As residents remain concerned about air and water impact, the carrot on the end of the stick for proponents remains the Feed In Tariff (FIT) – the energy payment arm of the Green Energy Act – and it’s price schedule offering 10.4 cents per kilowatt hour.

In contrast to 10.4, I recall the price at the 4 cent kWh range when we left government 10- years ago. Around that time I also recall the meetings, petitions and protests that surrounded the proposal for Edward’s Landfill in the Cayuga area – a proposal that went through a lengthy and comprehensive Environmental Assessment process, now not applicable to the Delhi project. I worked with many concerned individuals of HALT – Haldimand Against Land Transfers – to ensure proper steps were taken for an inclusive thorough assessment, taking community concerns into account.

And despite the divergent assessment routes, I again look forward to using the tools we do have to ensure local voices are heard. Given the parameters of the Green Energy Act, it won’t be an easy task. The fact is, while government attempts to wrap up the unaffordable FIT deals and Green Energy Act plans with a big green bow, it doesn’t change the fact expensive green energy experiments are being forced upon local rural communities, driving up electricity bills while citizens are prevented any say in projects that will negatively impact them and their property values.

For all these reasons I continue to stand behind our Opposition commitments to reinstate municipal decision-making and cancel FIT altogether.