Belledune residents claim 'major victory'

Appeal board will hear case seeking to overturn building permit given controversial incinerator; Bennett weighs court challenge

Jorge Barrera (Times & Transcript Staff)
Feb. 24, 2004

FREDERICTON - The New Brunswick Assessment and Planning Appeal Board will hear an appeal from 77 Belledune residents seeking to overturn a building permit given Bennett Environmental Inc. by a municipal planning commission to build a high-tech incinerator in the village.

"This is a major victory," said Eric Gillespie, a Toronto lawyer representing the citizens group. "This was the most critical stage of the whole appeal process other than actually succeeding on the appeal."

The appeal board released its 22-page decision yesterday. The hearings are slated to begin March 22.

A spokesman for Bennett said its lawyers are still reviewing the decision, but the company is considering challenging it in court. "We are considering a judicial appeal but we want to weigh the total of what has been said in the (decision) document," said Bill McIntyre. Bennett was seeking to have the appeal dismissed, arguing the New Brunswick Assessment and Planning Appeal Board, which granted the appeal, doesn't have jurisdiction to rule on the case.

The citizens group was looking to overturn a construction permit given Bennett by the Department of Environment, but changed the appeal to focus on the building permit issued by the Belledune Planning Commission. Bennett argued the citizens group could not change their appeal.

Residents say the Bennett incinerator will have a negative impact on the value of their properties.

The Bennett incinerator has been a lightning-rod of controversy for almost a year. Many in the region fear the around $25-million facility, slated to process soils laden with hydrocarbons, will bring unwanted pollution and cause health risks.

The Department of Environment and the Department of Health have said the facility is safe and are supported by at least one toxicologist from the Queen's University faculty of medicine who is familiar with the region. Half of the cost of the incinerator is being spent on pollution control equipment.

The Department of Environment ignored advice from the Department of Health that it should put the project through a full environmental review or face public backlash. Instead, the department chose a fast-tracked approval process, arguing it was familiar with the technology in use.