Nanaimo: Wheelabrator Plays Weakest Link With Politicians

B. McPherson
Slag heaps from garbage incineration. Now you've got a real problem with toxic slag.
Nanaimo was treated to a game of “Weakest Link” on Wednesday afternoon. You remember the game played out on British TV in which the hapless loser was eliminated as “the weakest link”. American corporations were seeking friends among the Nanaimo politicians who might be their friends or the weakest link in the general opposition to the construction of a garbage burner in the area.

An event billed as a meet and greet was held at a local hotel. It was billed as an invitation only affair hosted by the Energy From Waste Coalition who would have a recognized expert in the field give a clear and unbiased explanation of the advantages to allowing a garbage burner built.

Those politicians who have been outspoken in their opposition to importing Metro Vancouver’s garbage to Vancouver Island were not invited.

The Energy From Waste Coalition is owned and operated by two multinational corporations. Funnily enough, one of them is Wheelabrator Inc. The other owner and operator is Covanta Holding Corp. Another company listed as an owner on their web site, Veolia Montenay is owned by Covanta, the last transfer of ownership was February 2, 2010. Covanta has also made a bid to build a garbage burner for Metro Vancouver.

John Foden was billed as an executive with the Coalition. According to a page from the WTERT site, Foden is a communication executive and writer.

Following is an excerpt of his writing as published in Waste Management World. It is on the subject of turning opponents to one of their plants to supporters.

John Foden:
Establishing a supportive relationship with a respected, independent politician is an essential early step. This 'star' candidate will have to speak positively about the project and the vendors, understand the political (electoral) opportunities and risks of the project, and be willing to stand up to an impetuous council, strident opponents, and a sensationalising media. Waste Management World April 23, 2013
Relationships with local/ad hoc stakeholder groups and individuals must be nurtured, not assumed. The way to stand-up to criticism from jet-setting 'celebrity' environmentalists is to maintain an on-the-ground presence, close to the project, in order to remain accessible and available to any and all of the stakeholders. 
Circulating background information in the form of simple, honest, unbiased documentation is key. Editorial board meetings are a highly effective means of modifying media perspectives and attitudes. Negative coverage should be addressed promptly in the form of letters to the editor, opinion pieces and freelance articles. Persistence is key.
Persistence is certainly key. This spring Wheelabrator Inc. sponsored a golf tournament for various decision makers.

Garbage burners have been emphatically turned down by the Fraser Valley Regional District. The Regional District of Nanaimo has stated that Wheelabrator is not welcome to build in the area. The Fraser ValleyRegional District is threatening legal action against the garbage burner’s(Covanta) continued operation in Burnaby.

To be fair, the garbage burner in Burnaby is operating within the rules. It burns about 280 000 tonnes of garbage each year, producing about 50 000 tonnes of bottom ash and about 12 000 tonnes of fly ash. Their cadmium levels have exceeded guidelines from time to time but generally they are in compliance. They are not required to test emissions for antimony, cobalt,copper, nickel, selenium, tin or zinc.

You can dress up a pig any way you want. It still remains a pig.

The question remains. Who among those attendees will be the The Weakest Link?

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