Mike Hicknell found a larger and more receptive audience this week for a presentation of his concerns about a biogas plant in Elmira. Some 70 residents who turned out at the Woolwich Memorial Centre Wednesday evening heard him discuss possible traffic woes associated with trucks visiting the proposed location in the north end of town.
The public meeting organized by the Elmira Bio Fuel Citizen’s Committee (BFCC) was much livelier than the council meeting Hicknell addressed Aug. 10. It was the second consecutive Wednesday the group, which opposes the proposed biogas plant, has held a meeting to drum up support and to pass out lawn signs, more visible in town in the last week.
As he did in council chambers, Hicknell predicted the extra trucks rolling through Elmira’s core would pose a safety hazard to the community. He estimated 90 per cent of the trucks travelling to and from the Martin’s Lane site would pass through the main intersection at Arthur and Church streets.
The company behind the plan to generate electricity using organic waste, Bio-En Power Inc., says the operation would see seven to 15 trucks daily, though opponents have been citing 80 trucks, the top-end limit listed in the application process. Hicknell, for instance, used a figure of up to 160 truck trips in his presentation, saying it was unclear if the 80 trucks were only counted as one way in or out.
In an interview, however, Bio-En president Chuck Martin disputed the traffic claims.
“As far as the traffic is concerned, I don’t buy the argument. There will be significantly less traffic than when that site had the feed mill, the pet food plant, the truck service and a fuel depot,” said Martin. “The truck numbers are nothing like what they used to be.”
Moreover, land is zoned industrial – any industrial use is likely to bring truck traffic, perhaps far more than the proposed biogas plant, he added.
But traffic is not the only concern voiced by the residents’ group, which is also worried about odour and noise issues. Still in the early stages of organizing, opponents want to bring more pressure to bear on municipal politicians. Although the province has taken the matter out of local hands – under the Green Energy Act, decisions about these kind of alternative energy projects are made by the provincial government – Woolwich council could do more to lobby on residents’ behalf, they say.
From Hicknell’s perspective, councillors should be vocal in opposition of the plant, contacting the government and the premier’s office directly rather than just making technical recommendations about the project.
Added Ed Speers, one of the BFCC organizers, “there is a role for them as councillors in addressing Queen’s Park, the government and Mr. McGuinty.”
The group will be holding another meeting Aug. 25, starting at 6:30 p.m. at the WMC, to plan its next steps in the battle.