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The next big thing

Some time this spring – some staff have said March, others have offered a less specific timeline – regional councillors will hear the case for bringing anaerobic digestion to Durham Region. The technology, which uses green waste such as compost and other decomposable organics to generate biofuel, could very well be a moneymaker for the region.

However, before any shovels have gone into the ground or a final decision even made, the file has already been a moneymaker for some. A review of regional budgets since 2010 has found that, in that time, Durham has budgeted more than $1.7 million towards the project. While not all of that money has been spent – only $50,000 of the $500,000 budgeted in 2015 was used – the amount of money spent by the region still tops $1 million, taking into account the $800,000 put forward in this year’s spending plan.

And all of this money has gone to pay consultants and cover multiple trips to Europe. No word on whether the side trips to visit the Palace of Versailles and the Sagrada Familia Basillica – personal trips taken during the latest European excursion – came out of that budget.

With money already spent, regional councillors should not be fooled into approving the project just because the region has already invested into it. In council chambers, Councillor John Neal says this was the tactic taken to get his colleagues on side to approve the maligned Durham York Energy Centre, a project that has gone far above its original budget, ballooning to nearly $300 million. On top of that, the facility has faced delays in getting started, as well as a months-long shut down last year when tests found the incinerator was emitting far more toxins than it was legally permitted.

So when the business case comes before council, whether it be next month or later on, councillors need to look at the case carefully – get all the facts, don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions and perhaps even do their own research. After all, should they decide to go along for the anaerobic digester ride, it will cost millions of dollars to construct.

And should the project go ahead, the region needs to ensure that the $72-million projection, which also includes a pre-sort facility to get organics out of the waste stream, stays on that number. After all, the last thing the residents of Durham Region need is another multi-million dollar project come in late and over budget.