Coun­ties con­firm ED-19 ap­peal

The Recorder & Times (Brockville) - - FRONT PAGE - WAYNE LOWRIE wlowrie@post­media.com

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.

FILE PHOTO

United Coun­ties War­den Robin Jones is shown in this file photo..

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