Hamilton 350 Committee

H350's Email Exchanges with GFL

Hamilton 350, along with other environmental groups, have several concerns abut this proposal. The following exchanges reflect our concerns, GFL’s responses to our concerns, and our thoughts on their response.
1. Failure to adequately consult with and consider the interests of Indigenous Nations
The proponent claims to have sent notice and information to Indigenous nations, but there is no evidence that any response was received or any actual contact with Indigenous nations occurred, and no indication that the proponent followed up with effective communication. Also there is no indication of offering assistance to the Indigenous First Nations to help them review and respond. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission calls to action include a business section (#92) that reads in part: “Commit to meaningful consultation, building respectful relationships, and obtaining the free, prior, and informed consent of Indigenous peoples before proceeding with economic development projects.” It appears that no free, prior or informed consent has been obtained; and that the proponent failed to engage in a serious and respectful attempt to obtain such consent.

We have sent multiple emails, including invitations to discuss the project, to both the Six Nations of the Grand River and Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation. We have since met with the Six Nations of the Grand River on February 7, 2023. During our meeting we answered various questions, and we continue to respond to their questions. We have also directly reached out to the Mississaugas of the Credit to ask for a meeting to discuss the proposed project. We continue to maintain an open-door policy in case these groups, or any other group, want to meet regarding the project or have additional questions.

Emails and even meetings with Indigenous people are helpful, but has GFL secured their "free, prior and informed consent" as recommended by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and included in the United Nations Declaration on Indigenous Rights? Your response only indicates having actually met with the Six Nations band council and a hoped for meeting with Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation. The EA referenced the Haudenosaunee Development Institute and the Confederacy Council. Have you abandoned efforts to obtain their consent? We would strongly suggest these are needed.

We continue to reach out and respond to any questions and comments from the Indigenous community. In the end, it will be their decision for how they wish to respond.

Sadly there is nothing new here. There is no further information about your planned meeting with the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation. And there is no response to our specific questions about interaction with the Haudenosaunee Development Institute and the Confederacy Council. We are disappointed that GFL appears to consider it unnecessary to obtain the free, prior and informed consent of First Nations, or to implement the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

2. Failure to adequately notify local residents

In the consultation, the proponent admitted not circulating notices to the neighbourhood about the project, but instead relying of ads in various newspapers. Only one of those newspapers (the Hamilton Spectator) even circulates in the neighbourhood of the proposed facility and it requires a paid subscription so it is unlikely it actually goes to any local residents especially since they most appear to be low income. The EA acknowledges nearby residential uses including “a two-storey building at 290 Sherman Avenue North, located immediately east of the Site that has potential residential uses. Other residential dwellings are located approximately 100 m southeast of the Site along the south side of Imperial Street, approximately 490 m south of the Site and approximately 400 m northwest of the Site.” A reasonable attempt to notify these residents would be the simple circulation of a letter to each household before the open houses and public consultation began. This failure needs to be remedied by restarting the consultation.

There is also no text discussion of a proposed HSR “bus barn” on Birch Ave within 300 metres of the facility that should also be deemed a sensitive use. It is mentioned in a table on page 6-12. What will be the impacts on drivers and other users of this facility? Why wasn’t the driver’s union notified and asked to comment?

We believe the most effective way to reach the most people in a reasonable manner is to circulate messaging (and point readers toward our project webpage for additional information) through community newspapers (which has been done). Our goal is to cover all geographical areas that may have a stake in the project. We have since also hand-delivered project notices to all neighbouring buildings. Furthermore, it was determined by our consultant that a "bus barn" is not considered a sensitive land-use by the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP).

It is positive that notices were hand delivered to your neighbours, but the timing of that is crucial to it being meaningful to the process. When did that occur? Did that allow your neighbours the opportunity to attend the on-line consultation meetings; or request the EA document; or respond to it well before the March 1 deadline? That is, did this contact occur far too late in the process and if so shouldn’t GFL repeat that process? Please clarify. We appreciate the viewpoint that the planned bus barn does not meet the MECP standard of a "sensitive use" but surely the noise and emissions from a new 24/7 facility may be of concern to that and other neighbouring employment centres. I expect the employees would disagree that they are insensitive to noise and air pollution.

Hand delivering notices to neighbours about the proposed project is not a requirement of the Environmental Screening Process (ESP) but is part of the Environmental Compliance Approval (ECA) application process. We decided to complete this part of the ECA application process early in order to piggyback on the ESP. Notifications were delivered to neighbours of the Brant Street Facility on February 6, 2023.

We appreciate the new information that notices were hand delivered to neighbours on February 6, 2023 even though you believe that this is "not a requirement". Whether or not your understanding of the Environmental Screening Process is correct, your publication of advertisements much earlier in the process suggests that notice to potentially affected parties is a well understood part of public engagement. The February 6 delivery date leaves the recipients with far less than the 60-day comment period on the Environmental Assessment document. With respect to the Environmental Compliance Approval process, we request that you provide us with notice of the commencement of the ECA process as well as opportunities to participate.

3. Failure to address the climate emergency

The proponent has prominently claimed that a major justification for the project is to cut greenhouse gas emissions. This objective was highlighted by Sustainable Development Technology Canada (STDC) when it announced $3.8 million in funding to the proponent’s partner Cobric Chemicals, in early 2021. The media release for that federal investment quoted the Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry as saying: “Now is the time for ambitious climate action. Cleantech innovation, entrepreneurship and commercialization are key to the vital shift to a healthier environment and a net-zero carbon economy. Today’s announcement will boost our leadership in climate and waste reduction technologies and help foster a truly Canadian success story.”

Curiously and of concern is that this major public funding was not mentioned in the workshop I attended, or in the environmental assessment document. And it appears that the project as proposed is not climate responsible. The environmental assessment table 6-2 indicates that the project will be powered by natural gas (more appropriately referred to as fossil gas) and is expected to result in new greenhouse gas emissions of 11,266 tonnes per year. These are new emissions, and along with other pollutant emissions, are being added to the Hamilton air-shed which is recognized as already compromised.

This same table states that the project will result in a reduction of an estimated 22,500 tonnes per year at an unidentified United States recycling facility. This claim is problematic in several respects. The facility is not identified; there is no indication of how this estimate was arrived at; no calculations are provided; and there no way an independent reviewer can confirm this claim. Instead the report simply states: “The proposed project uses less energy to process the same quantity of material. It is presently estimated based on the energy inputs that the existing US alternative technology would produce twice as much of CO2 equivalent.” Why is this the case? Does this reflect the size of the referenced US facility—presumably larger and therefore likely more efficient than the pilot project being proposed in Hamilton? Is there any evidence that the US facility will actually reduce its GHG emissions if it doesn’t receive the waste being diverted to the proponent’s proposed facility? If the US facility is using less efficient technology, why could it not adopt the Hamilton technology and thus cut its emissions? The fuel at the US facility is not revealed. If it is fossil gas, the transportation costs (and emissions) of that fuel would be expected to be less than the fracked gas imported a considerable distance from the US that makes up the majority of Ontario supplies.

And further, it is not revealed if the proponent’s calculations of emissions consider the reportedly much higher actual climate impacts of fracked gas versus the usual claims for “natural” gas. I understand that the vast majority of gas used in Ontario comes from fracking operations in Pennsylvania, a state that does not monitor or report on fugitive emissions from those operations. Independent research suggests that the climate impact of fracked gas is similar to burning coal. The proponent’s climate claims need to be accurate and transparent.

The same table 6-2 shows the expected greenhouse gas reductions claimed by the proponent as a result of reduced transportation are 709 tonnes/year, less than 7 percent of the new GHG emissions expected to occur in Hamilton.

There is currently no Canadian solution to treat Electric Arc Furnace Dust (EAFD). Our High-temperature Metal Recovery (HTMR) technology presents an opportunity to have a positive impact on reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions generated by the steel industry, while also contributing to the Canadian economy and keeping the valuable benefits within Canada (rather than exported them to the US). This technology is supported by the steel industry as well as the federal government (including Sustainable Development Technology Canada). This proposed project offers a net reduction in GHG emissions via the following:

  • Reduction in transportation of a by-product currently produced by the steel industry in Canada. The designed throughput of this demonstration project (i.e., 10,000 metric tonnes of EAFD per year) represents a reduction in diesel emissions of 500 trucks (i.e., 20 metric tonne net payload capacity limit) per year and a 1,000 km roundtrip per truck to transport the material to Pennsylvania for processing. Other benefits include improved highway safety with fewer trucks on the road, reduced highway maintenance, and reduction of administrative burden for export permits and traffic congestion at the border. The net result is a reduction in CO2 emissions of approximately 710 metric tonnes per year per 10,000 metric tonnes of EAFD processed.
  • Available data indicates that the HTMR process uses roughly half the amount of carbon reductant per tonne of EAFD processed compared to the existing commercialized technology (estimate = 10,600 metric tonnes of CO2 reduction per 10,000 metric tonnes of EAFD processed; basis: reduction of 2,890 metric tonnes of carbon per 10,000 metric tonnes of EAFD x 44/12 CO2/C).
  • Reduction in GHG emissions per tonne of EAFD processed due to approximately 150°C lower operation temperature compared to competing technology (net reduction estimate = 590 metric tonnes CO2 per 10,000 metric tonnes of EAFD processed). Further process improvements requiring research and development may enable lowering the temperature and possibly the amount of carbon reductant required to separate Zinc from EAFD.

Total CO2 reduction (using 10,000 metric tonnes of EAFD per year processed as the basis) is 11,900 metric tonnes (comprised of: 710 metric tonnes per year by reducing transportation; 10,600 metric tonnes per year due to reduced carbon reduction feed; 590 metric tonnes per year due to lower temperature). Contrary to the comment that "…major public funding was not mentioned in the workshop", the $3.78 M funding from Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC) was mentioned in both Public Consultation presentations as an endorsement of the project after carrying out an independent technical and economic viability assessment of the project.

Thank you for the additional information about the comparator US facility you are utilizing, but it remains quite insufficient for independent review. What are the "available data" you refer to on US recycling efforts? How can we or any other independent observers confirm your estimates and calculations? Your new reference to "carbon reductant" is very curious. We understand the term to include coal and wood chips. Is that what you are comparing to your proposed project? Isn’t that an apples to oranges comparison?

Hand delivering notices to neighbours about the proposed project is not a requirement of the Environmental Screening Process (ESP) but is part of the Environmental Compliance Approval (ECA) application process. We decided to complete this part of the ECA applicatiAs we continue along the path of evaluating our data, we have arranged a third-party consultant to perform further analysis and draft a report. Once that report is complete and provided to us, it will be made available on our project webpage.on process early in order to piggyback on the ESP. Notifications were delivered to neighbours of the Brant Street Facility on February 6, 2023.

Again our queries here are not responded to directly. We are certainly interested to hear from your "third party consultant" report. And as interested parties, we would appreciate notice of when it is available for review rather than guessing when (and where) it might be posted on your project web page. We also believe that report needs to made available for review BEFORE the MECP considers the claims in the EA report. And we think it is incumbent that your federal funders should also be provided with this report and your positions on greenhouse gas emissions.

4. Failure to act in a climate responsible way

The decision to rely on fossil gas as the main energy source flies in the face of the overwhelming evidence of a climate emergency largely caused by fossil fuels. Everyone from the Secretary-General of the United Nations, to the International Energy Agency agrees that we have to get off fossil fuels as quickly as possible, and that doing the opposite in a new industrial investment is irresponsible. Note the SDTC commitment to “net zero”. How will this be advanced by opening a new facility that relies on fossil gas? This will inevitably require retrofitting to electrical energy and the company will no doubt seek public dollars for such a retrofitting. Instead it should be done right in the first place.

The objective of this project is to demonstrate the technology of Zinc separation from EAFD on a pre-commercial scale, meeting environmental emission limits as well as technical and commercial targets to justify investment in the business. In addition to GHG considerations, for which the benefits are listed above, the technology selected for the project must meet certain technical and operating performance metrics. While an electrically-heated furnace was considered early on in the project, our technology partners, having the expertise in high temperature furnace design and engineering required for the HTMR process, recommended a gas-fired over electrically-heated furnace for reasons of technology robustness and lower operating cost. However, with the possible reduction in process temperature mentioned above, an electrically-heated furnace could become a more competitive technology solution and would be considered for future capacity expansion.

In your response you essentially justify the use of fossil gas as cheaper than electricity. For the climate that is definitely not the case. You indicate that electricity might be reconsidered in a future expansion. Is that practical to do so? Can you make the conversion easily? What would happen to the gas furnaces you plan to install initially?

We have previously indicated that this demonstration project will implement natural gas fuel for many reasons, as provided in our public consultations and webpage documentation, including the recommendations from third-party independent experts. Once we have compiled and assessed data from the demonstration, we will look at the applicability of using electricity in the future.

We don’t see any replies to our specific questions or any new information here, so we are forced to conclude that you believe your earlier answers are sufficient. We are disappointed with your decision to increase greenhouse gas emissions despite the well understood consequences and the declarations of a climate emergency by both the City of Hamilton and the Government of Canada, alongside international statements including the most recent IPCC AR6 report released on March 20.

5. The economic impact was not examined

The economic costs to Ontario of relying on an imported energy source (fracked gas) are considerably greater than the utilization of Ontario-produced energy provided through the grid. This is not assessed or even considered.

As previously mentioned, we had a third-party consultant evaluate our power source of electrical versus natural gas. At this point in time, the technical demonstration requirements and economic benefit of the project showed the need to utilize natural gas. It is not cost-effective for the facility to use electricity to power the furnace sources, and would add unnecessary demand to the grid during peak hours. Similarly, it follows that industrial, commercial, and residential demand predominantly use natural gas to support equipment requiring increased energy for these same reasons. Natural gas is considered a reasonable option for providing power to sources with relatively high energy demand.

This project would provide additional economic benefit to Ontario by providing jobs to operate the plant, engage local equipment suppliers and engineering services, and by keeping valuable resources in Canada instead of the current practice of exporting this value to the US. Furthermore, the supply of natural gas to the province is decided by the gas industry and government regulators according to transportation economics, and is not under the control of the project. Imported energy versus domestic supply grid is therefore not relevant to the project, as natural gas supply to Ontario consumers could be, and prior to 2008 was, supplied by Western Canada. Furthermore, electrification of the Ontario economy will require huge capital investments in electrical generation capacity (estimates exceed $200 billion in Ontario by 2050). Renewable electricity generation sources do not have the capacity or reliability to deliver constant demand by industry and must be supplemented by baseline generation. To remain GHG neutral, the baseline power source would most likely have to be nuclear (which has its own inherent environmental issues). Hydro generation is largely already exploited in Ontario, and also has major environmental considerations. A nuclear generation plant of similar size to Darlington (4,800 MW) will cost at least $25 B. Several Darlington plants would need to be built to convert current demand for electrification of EVs, and residential and commercial heating from natural gas. An estimate exceeding 42,000 MW of additional generation capacity would be required to convert residential heating alone from natural gas to electric in Canada by 2050. There are no new nuclear plants scheduled to be built, and it takes 10 years or more to bring them on-line. Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) are being touted as a solution, however they also cost billions of dollars, are at a relatively early stage of commercial development, and due to smaller scale generation will cost more $/kwh than larger nuclear plants. The desire to electrify the Ontario economy near term can therefore not be met by existing or planned increases to electrical generation capacity that are in the public domain of knowledge. Consequently, the transition to an electrified Ontario economy will likely need to be met near term by natural gas-fired turbines to drive electrical generators. The efficiency of thermal to electrical power conversion is typically 30% for conventional to 55% for co-generation (before transmission losses). The use of natural gas-fired furnaces, on the other hand, typically exceeds 80%. Therefore, for industrial heating purposes, it makes more GHG and economic sense to use gas-fired furnaces than electricity produced by gas-fired generation to heat an industrial furnace in Ontario. There is a stronger argument to convert residential heating from natural gas to electricity via heat pumps in terms of thermal efficiency, reported to be upwards of 98%, than electrically heated industrial furnaces.

We don’t believe that impacts on the grid are your problem. If Ontario cannot supply sufficient electrical energy for this project, please provide a letter from the Independent Electricity Supply Operator (IESO) to that effect. We think they will be quite surprised to hear this. Fossil gas is not a reasonable option for the climate. In addition, identifying the source of the gas is critical in determining the actual climate impact of its use. Failure to do so undermines all your GHG calculations. Concerns about "electrification of the Ontario economy" seem beyond the scope of this assessment and appear to have been ghost-written by a gas supplier or cribbed from their materials. The extended argument you present essentially says getting off fossil gas even by 2050 is unrealistic so why bother avoiding adding more GHG emissions with this facility. We would contend this is climate irresponsible. It is striking that a company which names itself "Green For Life Environmental" and describes itself as "providing sustainable environmental solutions" chooses to increase the use of fossil gas rather than accept the clear and widely acknowledged agreement that we have to stop using these fuels. In fact the IPCC says we have to cut fossil fuel use at least in half by 2030, and both the UN and the International Energy Agency have declared we have to stop expanding fossil fuel infrastructure and usage.

Electrical generation capacity in Ontario is of concern to the project, not only for reliability of energy supply but also greenhouse gas (GHG) impact. If peak electricity demand is met by gas-fired generators, as has recently been contracted by the Independent Electricity Supply Operator (IESO), then the GHG impact would be greater than using a natural gas-fired furnace for the project due to lower efficiency of conversion of thermal to electrical energy plus transmission losses.

Your response in this section is also largely repetitive, but you have introduced a new contention which is false or at least quite confused. Ontario’s electricity supply averages 94 percent fossil-free. The GFL project will operate 24/7/365 so that average applies to your proposed operations. Even when additional fossil gas is utilized during occasional peak periods, this still only is a small part of the grid supply which will continues to include nuclear, hydro, wind and solar. Consequently, the efficiency comparison you make is not relevant or fair. The appropriate comparison is between the average electrical supply with its very low fossil composition, and GFL’s plans to generate carbon emissions full-time by burning methane (fossil "natural" gas).

We remain very disappointed that a company which names itself "Green For Life Environmental" and describes itself as "providing sustainable environmental solutions" chooses to increase the use of fossil gas rather than accept the clear and widely acknowledged understanding that we have to stop using these fuels. In fact the IPCC says we have to cut fossil fuel use at least in half by 2030, and both the UN and the International Energy Agency have declared we have to stop expanding fossil fuel infrastructure and usage. We don’t understand how GFL can ignore these very clear pronouncements.


GFL rules out electricity for Hamilton EAF dust recycling plant, Hamilton Spectator, 14 March 2023