Seizing The Enviro Moment – Bill McQuarrie

McQUARRIE – Seizing the enviro moment

March 92016 4:39 A.M.

Mission Flats landfill. (CBC Daybreak Kamloops photo)

THERE WAS a time, not that long ago, when some believed that environmental and economic objectives were not and never would be compatible.  Some felt and still do that one simply and quite obviously precluded the other.

On this point of compatibility, Stephen Harper was in the irreconcilable differences camp and reinforced those feelings when he said at a party meeting; “We’re gearing up now for the biggest struggle our party has faced since you entrusted me with the leadership. I’m talking about the Battle of Kyoto — our campaign to block the job-killing, economy-destroying Kyoto accord.”

I was thinking about Harper and his fearful beliefs as I drove from Kamloops to Ashcroft this past weekend.  Passing the Cache Creek landfill, I recalled how just a year ago, Wastech (Belkorp Environmental Services) and Cache Creek celebrated the opening of the new Landfill Gas Utilization Plant…A project that takes methane, the bi-product of the landfills and uses it to generate 4.8 megawatts of electricity.  That is enough electricity to power over 2,500 typical homes!

In terms of global economic and environmental impact, this plant could be considered slightly below insignificant.  But in terms of the local economy, it was a major investment that created new jobs while solving significant and newly regulated environmental concerns.

Prior to building the generation plant, methane, one of the most dangerous of greenhouse gasses in the world, was flared off and before that was simply left to escape into the atmosphere.

It wasn’t rocket science, simply an innovative solution where a major corporation saw an opportunity, was willing to put up the investment capital, got the support of the community, built the project and turned tonnes of escaping methane into electricity.  Doesn’t sound like job-killing, economy destroying work to me.

Here in Kamloops, we have a landfill too.  Certainly nowhere near the 200,000 tonnes a of waste per year that Cache Creek gets, but at around 35,000 tonnes of combined household and Industrial Commercial Institutional waste, not insignificant either.  In fact, it is enough waste to fall within the new provincial guidelines that dictate we must, like Cache Creek, do something about the methane it is producing.  So what are we doing about that?

Well, it’s my understanding that Kamloops will do the prescribed minimum.  We will collect as much of the methane as possible, build a flare tower and burn it off.  The rules that came into effect January say we must destroy the methane and this flaring process is but one option that can be employed.  Flaring does create CO2 but the rationalization is, CO2 is less harmful to our atmosphere than methane.

I’m wondering though, if there isn’t another solution?  Something a little more creative, less wasteful, more efficient and like the Cache Creek project, might even generate some economic benefits.

I doubt there is enough methane being produced to justify a facility such as Cache Creek.  However, there is a major industrial enterprise just down the road from our landfill and they require a tremendous amount of heat in their paper manufacturing process. This heat could – at least in part – be created through the use of our landfill’s methane.

Imagine for a moment a City helping its largest industrial employer reduce their dependence on natural gas by using an almost identical gas that is a by-product of the landfill.  It’s a project even Fortis might want to get involved with as a demonstration of how environmental and economic interests can coexist while lessening dependency on fossil fuels.  It wouldn’t surprise me if there was interest from private sector investors as well but of course you have to go out and look for that.

But instead, to the best of my knowledge, the City’s plan is to flare off the methane.  They will simply build and pay for the necessary infrastructure and that energy will be burnt as waste and to the benefit of no one.  This is the total opposite approach of Cache Creek where a community liability became an asset.

The new provincial regulations on Landfill Gas (LFG) Management established province-wide criteria for LFG capture from municipal solid waste landfills. The Regulation focuses on greenhouse gas emission reductions with the objective of maximizing reductions of LFG emissions and identifying potential opportunities to increase LFG recovery.

It was the identifying potential opportunities part that Cache Creek capitalized on by encouraging and welcoming private sector investment.  Something Stuart Belkin, Chairman & CEO of Belkorp Industries Inc. seems to agree with when he stated last year, “By utilizing the <landfill> gas that is naturally generated, this investment adds a new dimension to the waste management practices at the Cache Creek Landfill.”

Yet here in Kamloops, we have a major industrial employer, already nervous about their $5,000,000.00 property tax bill, living next door to a possible man-made energy source that could benefit them while simultaneously helping the city solve an expensive regulatory problem.  Which begs the question…

Does our City continue down the Harper path of mean spirited and wilful enviroeconomic blindness or like Cache Creek, seize the moment to create new opportunities that help both the economy and the environment?  What do you think should happen?

Bill McQuarrie is a Kamloops entrepreneur. He can be contacted at He tweets @mcrider1.


Joanne says:
March 9, 2016 08:40pm

Very interesting & thoughtful essay. How can we ensure our City’s mayor & councillors consider these ideas? Throwing all our food waste into the garbage still bothers me. When will our City decide to do something about that? Hmm…


Pierre Filisetti says:
March 9, 2016 07:24am

I am curious to find out if you talked to anyone of our local representative about this. Maybe they have…


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