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LETTER: Plastic-energy proposal needs rigorous environmental review first

Synergy World Power outlines facilities for the first phase of the proposed fuel plant and sorting facility.
Synergy World Power's outline for facilities for the first phase of the proposed fuel plant and sorting facility. - Contributed

Recently, we learned of a proposal by Synergy World Power to ship in plastics to Lewisporte from Europe to be incinerated and turned into fuel in a process known as gasification.

Apparently this potential deal has been in the making, under the public radar, for a while according to the Mayor, and will mean upwards of 400 jobs in Lewisporte, not to mention the economic spin-off throughout the region.
The first reaction of many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians (including yours truly), and particularly those living in Central N.L., when hearing about this opportunity was one of excitement and optimism — and who could blame them?

This project represents employment, putting food on the family table. This project represents new taxes, growth and greater sustainability for the town. This project represents opportunities for local business who will no doubt cash in on this new economic activity. There are definitely many reasons why local residents in particular would want to see this proposal come to fruition, and the sooner the better.

There is also an obvious political temptation by government to get this done so they can improve their employment statistics and take credit for this new-found economic activity.

Can’t you just picture them now jockeying for position in front of the television camera at the ribbon cutting ceremony, everyone with their best smile, clapping and nodding in approval as they take turns coming to the microphone. Oh, what a grand sight it will surely be.
As much as that visual sends a tingle down your spine and as exciting as this opportunity may sound from an economic perspective, there are some significant concerns which simply cannot be ignored.

These concerns were recently voiced by my colleague and MHA for the district of St. John’s East-Quidi Vidi, Alison Coffin and, of course, relate to the potential impact of this operation on our local environment.

Coffin is absolutely correct in raising these concerns despite the hyper-partisan bashing she will likely receive both inside and outside the House of Assembly.

It will likely be similar to the banter that both myself and former NDP leader Gerry Rogers had to listen to for daring to raise environmental concerns relating to the Grieg Aquaculture project — shouts and heckles of “you’re against economic development, you’re against jobs, you’re against the people of Marystown.

I guess this time around myself and Alison will be “against the people of Lewisporte or better still against the entirety of Central N.L.”

At the risk of enduring a second round of taunting and be marked as a leader with no vision and no desire to see the economy of N.L. grow outside the overpass, I will join with my colleague in calling on the government to ensure there is a complete and thorough environmental assessment process adhered to for this project.

Like Alison I, too, would like to gain a full understanding why similar proposals by this company were not approved in other jurisdictions and what risks we may be willing to accept that others would not.

It’s not until we fully understand the potential risks, and what will be done to mitigate them, can we make an informed decision as to whether this proposal should proceed.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ll never be accused of being a “tree hugger.”

Nobody would love to see this proposal succeed, see all those jobs created, and see all that much needed economic activity occur any more than this MHA; Lord knows we need it. However, if we are going to do it, let’s make sure we do it right.

Let’s not be prepared, out of economic and/or political desperation, to destroy this beautiful place we all love.

Paul Lane,
Independent MHA District of Mount Pearl-Southlands


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