Abbotsford's mayor and the chair of the Fraser Valley Regional District are dismayed with Metro Vancouver waste committee's decision to deny the FVRD an observer on the independent expert panel overseeing the proposed waste-to-energy project.
Mayor Bruce Banman said he was "not surprised but sadly disappointed" by the committee's decision.
"It's a slap in the face and I expect better," said Banman.
"They are supposed to apprise us of what they are doing, and they want to hide away behind closed doors."
The B.C. Environment Ministry has granted approval to Metro Vancouver to pursue plans for a waste-to-energy facility in or outside Metro Vancouver, but has stipulated it must consult with the FVRD.
However, Fraser Valley politicians complain an incinerator in the Lower Mainland would negatively affect their air quality, and they are opposed to the facility's construction.
The Metro committee's decision demonstrates it has "zero interest" in negotiating with the FVRD on the WTE issue, said Banman.
"I think it's sneaky and underhanded. [The process] should be open and transparent, and it contravenes the ministerial direction to be consultative in nature," he said.
Waste committee chairman Malcolm Brodie, also mayor of Richmond, said allowing the FVRD to have a seat on the committee was a "terrible idea."
"There would have to be a lot of confidential conversations between those experts," he said.
Instead, directors agreed to set up a political liaison committee, with two members from Metro and the Fraser Valley working together on the proposal for a waste-to-energy facility in or outside the region.
The political liaison committee, he said, will be another way to reach out to Abbotsford and Chilliwack, as the project progresses.
But Brodie maintains that while Metro hasn't decided on the technology of the proposed waste-to -energy plant, or how many will be built or where it will happen, approval has been granted.
"Whether people like it or not, that decision has been made," Brodie said.
Langley Coun. Gayle Martin agreed with having a political liaison committee, saying if they didn't do it, the FVRD might use it against them in the final decision.
"No matter how much consultation we do, the Fraser Valley is going to disagree with the outcome. That concerns me . . . how much clout are they going to have with the minister?" she asked.
FVRD chair and Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz also expressed disappointment with Metro's decision.
FVRD has a qualified engineer that would have been capable of understanding the technologies under consideration, she said.
"FVRD staff need to be part of discussion to ask critical questions on the technology because Metro seems to have drunk the Kool-Aid."
However, Gaetz said she was pleased with the decision to set up the political liaison committee.
Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan voted against forming a political liaison, saying it validates the FVRD's concerns about air quality, which are likely more affected by the streams of car and truck traffic travelling though the valley. He argued it was critical that the experts be free to do their job.
Metro Vancouver is wrapping up its request for technology, and expects to meet with 33 potential proponents later this month.