Proposed Canadian plant gains approval, local community objects

By Erin Voegele | August 28, 2012

The community of Oshawa, Ontario is taking action against the recent approval of a proposed ethanol plant. On Aug. 9, the Oshawa Port Authority announced its approval for FarmTech Energy Corp. to build and operate a 210 million liter (55.48 million gallon) ethanol plant at the Oshawa Harbor.

In response to the OPA announcement, the Oshawa City Council held a special council meeting on Aug. 23, where it passed a motion to contact the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner of Canada. The council is requesting that the commissioner open an ethics investigation with regard to the relationship between the OPA, Minister of Finance and Minister Responsible for the Greater Toronto Area Jim Flaherty, and FarmTech Energy. According to information released by the council, the investigation will focus, in part, on the appointments of the board of directors and chair of the OPA and their relationship to Flaherty and FarmTech Energy.

In addition, the council also passed a motion urging the OPA to hold a public meeting to transparently explain its decision to approve the plant, provide an overview of its development plan for the Oshawa Harbour, address concerns held by the city and members of the community, and answer questions from residents. The council also requested that OPA provide all public motions, ratifications or other information associated with its approval of the land lease, a copy of the lease, and evidence that that the lease represents fair market value. According to information provided by the council, this information is required under the Canada Marine Act.

“Given the unavailability of information and the community's deep concern and objection to the OPA's decision in approving the development of an ethanol refinery at the Oshawa Harbour, Oshawa Council is pushing the OPA to halt construction and to listen and respond to resident concerns during a transparent and open public meeting,”  said Oshawa Mayor John Henry.

Much of the community opposition for the plant seems to be focused on its location. The plant would be located along the shoreline of Lake Ontario, adjacent to a waterfront trail, a marsh designated as a Provincially Significant Wetland, and Lakeview Park, which includes a beach, boardwalk, playgrounds, picnic areas, sports fields and scenic trails.

When the community was notified that an Environmental Assessment of the project was under way, the Council of the Region of Durham and the Oshawa City Council each adopted resolutions opposing the plant. The Durham resolution was adopted in mid-2011. The Oshawa resolution was adopted in April 2010. The city also delivered a 300-page comment to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada opposing the construction and operation of the plant. In addition, approximately 3,300 resident letters opposing the project will also delivered. According to the council, the nearby rural Brock Township Council has stated they are willing to host the project.

While the community is opposing the project, FarmTech Energy is touting the benefits the plant will bring to the region. On Aug. 9, the company published an announcement stressing that the $200 million project will create hundreds of jobs and attract new opportunity and investment to Oshawa. According to FarmTech, the project will also contribute millions of dollars annually to the Oshawa economy and municipal tax base.

“It’s exciting to see this project, and investment in our community move forward,” said Dan O’Connor, president of FarmTech Energy. “This modern facility will bring tremendous economic benefits to Oshawa, including 300 construction jobs, 50 well paying full time jobs, and hundreds of industry related jobs in farming, shipping and port operations.”

In its statement, FarmTech also pointed out that the plant will be located in an industrial port, adjacent to an asphalt plant and near a sewage treatment plant and eight other industrial facilities. “The location is the most practical, efficient and environmentally friendly, allowing corn and distillers grains to be transported by ship,” said the company in a statement. “Utilizing Oshawa’s industrial port for moving agricultural products benefits local and regional farmers. It will also help to keep 12,000 trucks off our roads, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

Construction of the plant is expected to begin this summer. The project is scheduled to be operational by 2014.