Esquimalt is taking what some residents call a “bold step” toward reducing greenhouse gases in the region, by financing a feasibility study on integrated resource management (IRM).
With the Capital Regional District’s updated solid waste master plan in the final stages of consultation and due to come before the CRD board in June, Esquimalt council voted unanimously Feb. 1 to commit $100,000 from the 2021 budget for completion of the study.
“Here’s an opportunity for council to be bold, to put Esquimalt in a leadership position, to inspire our residents and maybe even other municipalities around Greater Victoria,” said Coun. Ken Armour, who made the motion to approve the funding.
Given the township has declared a state of climate emergency, he added, “our actions should be consistent with that.”
The vote went against a recommendation by the engineering and public works staff to not pull the money out early and instead to consider it within the regular budget process. Doing so, several people who called in to the meeting pointed out passionately, would risk missing the opportunity to have this technology be a part of longer-term waste management plan.
Mayor Barb Desjardins, who chairs the CRD’s solid waste advisory committee, said discussions around IRM at the regional level have seen directors divided on whether the technology is the way to go for the region.
The possibility of Esquimalt undertaking IRM on its own or as a pilot project for the CRD could enhance the climate goals and targets set by the CRD, she said, adding that information gained through the study could influence the planned Hartland landfill expansion.
Hugh Stephens with the Mount Work Coalition, a non-profit group lobbying against expanding the landfill, was among those calling for immediate action by council.
“A viable IRM option in Esquimalt will be an important factor in redirecting the solid waste master plan in a more environmentally responsible direction that will involve shipping less waste to Hartland,” he said.
Previous research done by the township determined the preferred format is an advanced gasification plant, which heats waste and produces gas that could be used for heating, cooling or other products. The proposal to be studied calls for a gasification plant operating 24/7 next to Esquimalt’s public works yard.
A public survey last fall found support for exploring the proposal, and people calling in to the council meeting emphasized the urgency of acting now on the feasibility study so it has a greater chance of being included as part of the CRD plan.