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Port CEO says there’s no interest in ethanol

Amalgamated port authority working on land use planning

By Dave Flaherty /The Oshawa Express

The Hamilton Oshawa Port Authority has officially closed the book on any possibility of an ethanol plant coming to the city’s harbour.

At a recent council meeting, Ward 5 city and regional councillor Brian Nicholson announced the port’s president and CEO Ian Hamilton told the city’s harbour working group the organization has no interest in an ethanol plant moving forward.

“We were quite happy [to hear the news],” Nicholson told The Oshawa Express. “It’s not surprising overall, but it was nice to get the confirmation.”

According to previous documents obtained by The Express, wheels were in motion as early as 2007 for an ethanol plant at the harbour.

In 2012, FarmTech Energy received approval from the then-Oshawa Port Authority (OPA) to build the plant, and a lease was signed in 2013.

Yet, the project sat in limbo for several years afterwards, while facing heavy opposition from Oshawa city council and a number of residents as well.

In late 2016, the port authority announced the project was dead.

As reported by The Express in September 2017, the OPA had terminated its lease with FarmTech in 2014, leading to the dispute going before an adjudicator.

That same year, it was also revealed the port authority had been ordered to pay a $4.1 million arbitration to FarmTech Energy.

In August 2018, then-OPA board chair Gary Valcour told The Express the matter had been settled.

Financial audits of the Oshawa Port Authority in 2016 and 2017 by DeLoitte LLP both included statements by the auditor expressing concerns over “the existence of a material uncertainty that may cast significant doubt about the Port Authority’s ability to continue as an ongoing concern.”

Last February, Transport Canada announced plans to amalgamate the port authorities of Oshawa and Hamilton, a move that became official this past summer.

Despite FarmTech’s ethanol plant project never seeing the light of day, Nicholson said there was “always a [local] perception [the OPA] wanted to do it.”

But Nicholson said the city, region, and no other surrounding municipalities had any interest in an ethanol plant.

As far as the future plans for the Oshawa Harbour, Nicholson says Hamilton told them the port authority will be undertaking an updated land-use plan.

Outside of this, Nicholson says the lines of communication seem to be much better with the newly merged organization.

“It’s night and day from the previous port. They didn’t want to tell us anything, they’d ambush us on a constant basis,” Nicholson said, noting the City of Hamilton has a very positive relationship with the organization. Comments from the Hamilton-Oshawa Port Authority weren’t received as of the Express’ deadline.