Regional council has set the wheels motion for a potential further capacity expansion at the Durham York Energy Centre.
Currently, 140,000 tonnes of waste is processed at the DYEC, but the region has begun the process to increase that to 160,000 tonnes.
However, the region is exploring a possible further capacity expansion to 250,000 tonnes per yer, pending public consultation.
Regional council voted for a draft terms of reference for the expansion at their latest meeting.
“That means it’s not a ‘hard and fast’ terms of reference that comes to council,” explains Ward 1 regional councillor John Neal. “It’s still going to be debated.”
As far as Neal is concerned, the decision to expand the incinerator is still up in the air.
During 2019 budget deliberations, council deferred its decision to expand the incinerator until a later date so staff could provide more information.
The original recommendation from staff called for an environmental assessment for the DYEC to expand and process 250,000 tonnes per year, and retaining consultation assistance at a cost no greater than $60,000.
Neal and his brother, Clarington councillor Joe Neal, wanted the decision regarding the recommendation deferred until after public consultation, but were defeated.
Wendy Bracken, a longtime critic of the DYEC, voiced her concerns the public may not be consulted on the expansion.
She believes by not consulting the public, council is essentially voting to up the capacity.
However, Neal says the decision for a draft terms of reference means there is still a chance for the public to be consulted.
The region will consult with lower-tier municipalities, as well as multiple committees on the potential expansion of the incinerator.
But Neal questions just how much a factor public input will play.
“Is that just window dressing? Or are they really going to take the public’s input in regards to another big expenditure,” Neal told The Express.
Neal says he didn’t vote for the incinerator in the first place, and he will continue to vote against an expansion.
“As far as I’m concerned the decision that was made to get the incinerator in the first place was flawed because the public were not given a chance [to speak],” he says.
Ultimately, the decision made by council amounts to stipulations being added to the initial recommendation that there will be public consultation, and staff must get council’s approval before going forward with any potential studies or other actions related to the expansion process.