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Biogas opponents rally for support

Mike Hicknell found a larger and more receptive audience this week for a presentation of his concerns about a biogas plant in Elmira. Some 70 residents who turned out at the Woolwich Memorial Centre Wednesday evening heard him discuss possible traffic woes associated with trucks visiting the proposed location in the north end of town.

Mike Hicknell addressess an audience of 70 at the Woolwich Memorial Centre Wednesday night during a meeting organized by the Elmira Bio Fuel Citizen’s Committee.

The public meeting organized by the Elmira Bio Fuel Citizen’s Committee (BFCC) was much livelier than the council meeting Hicknell addressed Aug. 10. It was the second consecutive Wednesday the group, which opposes the proposed biogas plant, has held a meeting to drum up support and to pass out lawn signs, more visible in town in the last week.

As he did in council chambers, Hicknell predicted the extra trucks rolling through Elmira’s core would pose a safety hazard to the community. He estimated 90 per cent of the trucks travelling to and from the Martin’s Lane site would pass through the main intersection at Arthur and Church streets.

The company behind the plan to generate electricity using organic waste, Bio-En Power Inc., says the operation would see seven to 15 trucks daily, though opponents have been citing 80 trucks, the top-end limit listed in the application process. Hicknell, for instance, used a figure of up to 160 truck trips in his presentation, saying it was unclear if the 80 trucks were only counted as one way in or out.

In an interview, however, Bio-En president Chuck Martin disputed the traffic claims.

“As far as the traffic is concerned, I don’t buy the argument. There will be significantly less traffic than when that site had the feed mill, the pet food plant, the truck service and a fuel depot,” said Martin. “The truck numbers are nothing like what they used to be.”

Moreover, land is zoned industrial – any industrial use is likely to bring truck traffic, perhaps far more than the proposed biogas plant, he added.

But traffic is not the only concern voiced by the residents’ group, which is also worried about odour and noise issues. Still in the early stages of organizing, opponents want to bring more pressure to bear on municipal politicians. Although the province has taken the matter out of local hands – under the Green Energy Act, decisions about these kind of alternative energy projects are made by the provincial government – Woolwich council could do more to lobby on residents’ behalf, they say.

From Hicknell’s perspective, councillors should be vocal in opposition of the plant, contacting the government and the premier’s office directly rather than just making technical recommendations about the project.

Added Ed Speers, one of the BFCC organizers, “there is a role for them as councillors in addressing Queen’s Park, the government and Mr. McGuinty.”

The group will be holding another meeting Aug. 25, starting at 6:30 p.m. at the WMC, to plan its next steps in the battle.

  1. Heaven forbid a Woolwich resident disagree with local planners. Disagreement is not lack of respect. I believe the lack of respect to which you refer, Derek, was done by the provincial Liberal government who now claim jurisdiction in these decisions. I’m not so sure I agree with how that was handled myself.

    A couple hundred signatures on a petition is a wonderful thing, and congratulations on that. But the Township Council and the planning committee must represent the needs of twenty thousand that live in the township as well. To my knowledge there has not been an alternative site proposal or land swap proposal made or any other productive action. They seem happy to wash their hands of it and let the Province decide.

    This is indicative of a lack of respect to local taxpayers on the part of our elected officials. People on both sides of this need to speak up and get involved. Thanks for doing your part.

  2. What your comment and many articles fail to point out is that Elmria and council rejected this plan in 2008, yet in spite of this the exact same proposal is now submitted to the Province of Ontario. How does this show any respect for local planning?

    Furthermore, while lawn signs are the most visible aspect, a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario is underway with signatures from hundreds of residents already collected so far.

  3. Alternative, renewable energy sources, but not in our backyard. Opposing this is such a short-sighted attitude. (The same kind of attitude that lost us the Woolwich Agricultural Society and that revenue stream.)
    Rather than rallying opposition and handing out lawn signs, the group should be working with the company to attract investors and make sure the operation is established the right way… so that traffic, noise and odour concerns can be dealt with quickly and efficiently.
    Where is our MPP in all of this? This issue concerns her more than anybody at the municipal level.

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