Moving on from the OMB
By Jenn Watt
Published Sept. 5, 2017
IT’S UNFORTUNATE that concerns and questions over what Haliburton Forest had planned for a biochar facility on Kennaway Road had to be taken to the Ontario Municipal Board in order to be answered.
Given the relatively minor tweaks to the bylaw that resulted from the process, it seems that a lot of money and time had to be spent in order to change so little. Not to mention the hard feelings and deep suspicions that only intensified as the process went on. But that’s what the OMB process is all about.
Local residents are exercising their right, granted them by provincial legislation, to conduct hearings on municipal planning decisions.
In this case, the group of appellants was concerned about a variety of elements of the biochar proposal from noise and air quality to where the buildings would be placed on the property, the northern portion which formerly held a sawmill.
In the end, the parties settled, much to the relief of many and saving everyone, including the taxpayers, a pile of money.
The biochar facility now must receive approvals from the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change
on several aspects of the facility including noise and air reviews.
The Forest has already studied its biochar with University of Toronto academics, the results of which have been published in peer-reviewed journals. Their biochar has also been certified by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Forest general manager Malcolm Cockwell said. (Although the Forest does not intend to sell their biochar as a soil amendment, having it certified by CFIA means it could be sold as such.)
Assuming the MOECC deems this project safe, there are many reasons for all of us to move on from the OMB process to learn more about biochar and what a facility could offer the local economy, but more importantly, what it offers for our environment.
Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming, edited by Paul Hawken, says biomass offers real benefits to slowing climate change.
“Scraps from sawmills and paper mills are valuable biomass…. Many such organic residues would either decompose on-site or get burned in slash piles, thus releasing their stored carbon regardless (albeit perhaps over longer periods of time). When organic matter decomposes, it often releases methane and when it is burned in piles, it releases black carbon (soot). Both methane and soot increase global warming faster than carbon dioxide; simply preventing them from being emitted can yield significant benefit, beyond putting the embodied energy of biomass to productive use,” the book reads.
The process of creating biochar involves burning wood in a low-oxygen environment, which locks in much of the carbon, trapping it for hundreds of years.
Having this kind of technology within Haliburton County is an exciting prospect. If the facility is
deemed safe to proceed, the municipality should embrace it as a source of jobs in the emerging green energy industry that we will all depend on in the years to come.