Deadline passes without word from federal government

A commission of Central Alberta municipalities working to bring a waste-to-energy plant to the area has seen its deadline for an answer on federal government funding pass without an answer.

A commission of Central Alberta municipalities working to bring a waste-to-energy plant to the area has seen its deadline for an answer on federal government funding pass without an answer.

The nine municipalities in the Central Alberta Waste Commission will decide their next step at a meeting set for June 24.

Commission members have become increasingly impatient with the length of time it is taking the federal government to decide whether the $90-million project qualifies for a $17-million grant under the Green Infrastructure Fund.

Hoping to light a fire under the government, the commission fired off a letter in March asking for a decision by the end of May.

But there has been no word. A federal election and a cabinet shuffle that put a new minister in charge of the grant has not helped.

A representative for Ottawa-based Plasco Energy Group, which is proposing to build the waste gasification plant, remains hopeful.

“We’re eternal optimists. We haven’t given up on that, I guess that’s the way to put it,” said Alisdair McLean, Plasco’s vice-president of strategic initiatives.

“We told the commission that we were still eager to proceed. We told them that before May 31,” he said. “They are trying to figure out how to best respond to our statement of enthusiasm, I guess.”

City of Red Deer Councillor Lynne Mulder said the commission is considering an offer from Plasco and will discuss it at the upcoming meeting.

“The contract as a whole needs review and renegotiation as it is three years old,” says Mulder, who is commission vice-chair, in an email. Mulder says the meeting will focus on “reviewing garbage commitments for each municipality as they have changed over the past three years.

“We will address other contract negotiations related to profit sharing and others things related to when it would be up and running etc.,” says Mulder, from Halifax, where she is attending the Federation of Canadian Municipalities conference.

“Plasco has indicated they would like to continue to partner with us and build a plant in Red Deer County subject to review and renegotiation of parts of the contract.”

The initial contract signed with Plasco in 2008 expired last June after several extensions. It outlined how much garbage each municipality would commit to the project and a per-tonne disposal fee.

It also made it clear Plasco would fund the project.

A site for the plant has been identified next to Red Deer County’s Horn Hill Waste Transfer Site just east of Hwy 2 near Penhold.

McLean said Plasco has submitted an application to Alberta Environment and expects to have an application for the Alberta Utilities Commission soon.

McLean acknowledged the project has taken much longer to get going than first anticipated. But the delays have had some advantages. Work on the technology has continued at a test plant in Ottawa and process improvements have been made.

“We have a better technology to offer the consumer now than we did three years ago,” he said. “I believe that to have been worth the wait.”

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com