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Ethanol issue explodes at Port meeting

Gary Valcour, chair of the Oshawa Port Authority, heard from several residents and politicians wanting an update on what is going on with the proposed ethanol plant at the port's annual general meeting. All Valcour would say was that the port authority and FarmTech, the company behind the proposed facility, are in arbitration.

Gary Valcour, chair of the Oshawa Port Authority, heard from several residents and politicians wanting an update on what is going on with the proposed ethanol plant at the port’s annual general meeting. All Valcour would say was that the port authority and FarmTech, the company behind the proposed facility, are in arbitration.

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

It was city officials and residents against the Port Authority as the ethanol plant issue erupted at the port manager’s annual general meeting.

Following the presentation of the port’s financial statements for 2015, which showed the port had a generally successful season, the announcement was made that the decision on the future of an ethanol plant at the Oshawa Harbour is currently in arbitration with FarmTech Energy.

The Port Authority refused to comment on the issue, and would not say what issue is currently before the arbitrators. It is assumed some kind of legal disagreement occurred between the two groups and an eventual result would either lead to the development going ahead or being denied.

Following countless heated attempts from residents for further information from Port Authority chair Gary Valcour, the “no comment” mantra was repeated countless times.

“I’m really not in a position to comment,” he said.

Speaking after the meeting, Valcour admitted he was not surprised by the reaction the announcement received. However, he would share no further details on the arbitration, not even being open to sharing when it began or who is representing the Port Authority in the hearing, saying he would have to speak with the board before sharing any details.

“I’m not supposed to comment on the arbitration,” he said. “Council has advised that we not talk about it. Period.”

“What are you, like a secret club?” asked resident Susie Boyle. “We are the residents of Oshawa. This is a part of who we are, and we have the right to know what is going on down there at our harbour front.”

The news also had several city councillors and Mayor John Henry disappointed that the issue is still not put to rest.

“I was hoping to come here today and say that we put it to rest,” Henry says. “The north side of Harbour Road will never be developed as long as the issue of ethanol is still on the table.”

Henry noted that several developers have shown interest in the area, but all are avoiding commitment due to the threat of an ethanol plant.

“There’s got to be an end to this,” Henry said.

“We’re stagnant on the waterfront and that’s a shame. The people of Oshawa deserve exactly the same thing that’s down at the Pickering waterfront, or the Port Perry waterfront, or the Whitby waterfront, or the Newcastle waterfront.”

No details surrounding the arbitration regarding how long it has been going on, who is involved and when a potential decision or award is slated to be made were provided.

Councillor Nester Pidwerbecki was the most vocal of the councillors in attendance, calling for the board to issue a request to speed the process up to reach an award as the entire issue was halting the development of the city’s south end.

“This is impeding the growth of the south end of Oshawa and you people don’t have that right,” he said.

“You should be working with us, like we worked with you and that’s not happening.”

The tensions boiled high enough that resident Larry Ladd called for Valcour to step down from his position.

“I would like you here today to tell us you’ve resigned, maybe then we’d have a waterfront with no ethanol,” Ladd said.

The ethanol plant was approved in August 2012, but no movement has been made toward construction. Whether the arbitration has been impeding that development for that amount of time was not confirmed.