Counties confirm ED-19 appeal
Counties council has retroactively endorsed its appeal of the provincial environment ministry ’s decision to suspend the licence for the ED -19 landfill site.
Following a closed meeting this week to discuss legal options surrounding the proposed landfill near Spencerville, the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville council decided to back publicly the appeal filed by its lawyers a few weeks earlier.
In its appeal to the Environmental Review Tribunal, the counties’ lawyers maintain ministry officials didn’t have the authority to put a hold on the 19-year-old environmental approval of the landfill near Spencerville. The appeal follows the ministry’s notification of the suspension until the counties or a new owner satisfies the government that ED-19 meets the requirements in the environmental approval certificate granted in 1998.
Warden Robin Jones said council endorsed the appeal because it has an obligation to protect its property and assets.
The county government and its partner municipalities invested $2.4 million in studies, approvals and the land itself to obtain the provincial approvals for ED-19 back in the 1990s, she said. That figure does not include the $650,000 that the provincial government contributed to the studies, she added.
Jones said the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change is giving conflicting messages over the status of the 19-year-old environmental approval of ED -19.
In April of 2017, a senior ministry bureaucrat confirmed in writing to the counties that the existing environmental approval is still valid, Jones said.
Also in April, the ministry said that whomever developed the landfill would need to do some work to confirm that the “conditions and assumption” that led to the approval are still valid. Jones said the counties agreed with the ministry’s condition.
On Nov. 9, the ministry phoned the counties to say it wanted to formalize the conditions in its April letter, Jones said. Instead, it “took a different action” to suspend two clauses in the environmental approval of ED -19.
Kyle Johnston, leader of Citizens Against the Dump, questioned the council’s retroactive decision to endorse the appeal, adding that council members seemed unaware of the appeal until after it was launched.
“Endorsing the appeal after the fact certainly begs the question of who gave the initial green light to appeal the decision, and therefore spend a potentially considerable amount of taxpayers money to fight those same taxpayers,” Johnston said.
In the appeal, the counties maintain that the ministry doesn’t have the right to suspend the clauses. But even if it did, the counties’ lawyers say the ministry officials did not have any evidence to back the decision.
The counties say ministry officials appear to be relying on changes to the Environmental Assessment Act in 1997 that allow the minister to reconsider an environmental approval of a landfill site if there are “changes in the circumstances” around the dump.
But ED -19 was approved under the 1996 law, which doesn’t allow the ministry to reconsider the approvals, according to the counties’ argument. Therefore, the ministry has no power to suspend the licence, the counties’ lawyers argue.
United Counties Warden Robin Jones is shown in this file photo..