"We have to be open and transparent on the issue of waste," says Lois Jackson to Vancouver
If you believe the press releases coming out of Gregor Robertson's office, we're on the cusp of a bold new direction to make Vancouver the greenest city this side of Neptune. Rarely does Robertson acknowledge the nearly two decades of work City staff invested in sustainability planning before he hung the chain of office around his neck.
Robertson likes to take credit for many things, but when it comes to the rather nasty business of the Delta Burns Bog landfill that Vancouver owns and operates, it seems like he doesn't want to discuss it. Tonight's report by GlobalTV BC's Brian Coxford was a case study on how not to treat local media – especially a reporter of Coxford's calibre – like a chump.
When Coxford requested interviews from City Manager Ballem and hizzoner Robertson about the Delta landfill, neither wanted to speak to him. They wouldn't even consent to have a TV camera visit this publicly-owned facility. That's because the Delta landfill is Vancouver's extremely dirty little secret. The City of Vancouver has been dumping its waste into the Delta landfill for years. Unlike other facilities such as the Roosevelt landfill in southern Washington state, where methane gas is collected to send megawatts of power to the Pacific Northwest grid, most GHGs go right into the Lower Mainland's airshed.
Mayor Lois Jackson, chair of the Metro Vancouver board, is familiar with the issues around regional waste and recycling (her board colleague Port Coquitlam Mayor Greg Moore chairs the waste committee, and has pushed the envelope for Poco on garbage and recycling matters). She knows that Vancouver is cheaping out by not seeking more costly, but more environmentally friendly options to deal with their waste.
In an election year where high taxes inevitably becomes an issue, the City of Vancouver is unlikely to put scarce dollars into something as unsexy as reducing greenhouse gases in a landfill. While other Metro Vancouver cities and municipalities are also struggling with the issues around waste – whether to burn it, keep sending it up to Cache Creek by semi-trailers, or put it on rail cars to Washington state – Vancouver gets to keep dumping into Delta's backyard.
According to GlobalTV's report, since Gregor Robertson and Vision Vancouver took office, the amount of GHGs leaking out of the Delta landfill has increased substantially. Today, 59-percent of greenhouse gases leak out, compared to less than 40-percent in 2006.
It seems from the report that Robertson and City representatives are not only rebuffing media requests, but they've dragged their feet for over eighteen months trying to set up a meeting with Mayor Jackson. When Delta sat down to discuss the GHG problem, they sent a note as a courtesy to City Manager Penny Ballem to notify her. Coxford reports that Ballem responded with a single line tapped out on her Blackberry:
"i am not in any way impressed with this way of doing business. pb"
Seems that even the normal decorum public officials use with each other has also gone into the dump.
It will be interesting to see what the ultimate solution is, and whether Vancouver will face up to the reality of more costly, but cleaner, waste solutions. And while they're at it, perhaps they could look seriously at contracting those services out too as a cost-saving measure (not to mention preventing a potential services stand still during a strike).
For now, garbage gases might be getting in the way of Gregor's greenest city goal. We can only hope that this will be fixed in time to meet his urgent 2020 deadline.
- post by Mike