Rage Against the Machine

Dedicated to Digging for Truth, Blasting the Myths, and Etching Reality in Stone.

We received another provocative email the other day from some friends of ours. We love it when we get emails that get our blood boiling. Keep ‘em coming!

It seems that although the legislature was shut down by McGuinty, some of his Ministries are still hard at work ignoring the ordinary people of Ontario.

Minister Gravelle from the MNR has decreed, with full support from the Aggregate Industry, (and now the Niagara Escarpment Commission!*) that recycling is just a rubber stamp away from your local pit and quarry.

(*You can reference the changes made by the NEC in this link, pages 9 and 10.)

This change is being justified as ‘something the public demands’.

Recycling of aggregate materials is supposed to reduce the “need” for more pits producing virgin material. But when ordinary citizens ask if more pits are actually ‘needed’ they are told that they simply can’t ask such questions … it’s against the law according to the Provincial Policy Statement (PPS)!

So first, let’s review some facts, and how our now-absentee masters are being led by the nose down the gravel road …

1.      We have over 6,500 pits and quarries in operation in Ontario right now. Allowing recycling is supposed to reduce consumption of ‘virgin’ materials. So do you suppose this might stop the opening of new pits and quarries? Hardly. The PPS is under review, and must change to take into consideration our current abundant supply of materials. But asking the ‘do we need more’ question is still prohibited!

2.      Recycling is an industrial operation that does not belong in a mining environment.

3.      Because of the potential for mis-handling of the various materials, recycling will require oversight, something the MNR has proven they will not, or cannot do, given their current mandate and personnel resources. So again, it will be left up to the aggregate mine operators to police themselves, something many of them have repeatedly done very poorly.

4.      Dust control in pits and quarries is always an issue. Do we really believe that increasing the polluting fumes from machinery, and toxic dust from the operations is a good idea? Processing more material – some of it possibly very toxic – in facilities and under conditions that were never intended for such, seems simply foolish, or worse.

5.      Leachates from asphalt and other contaminated materials will make their way into our water table. It is unavoidable when you drop this tainted rubble two meters from the aquifer, on porous soil.

6.      Furthermore, who will be inspecting the materials coming in for recycling? We know the MNR inspectors can’t do the job. Then who? Where are the regulations and rules designed for this new policy? It’s all left up to the Aggregate Resources Act, which was never intended to deal with industrial recycling facilities.

7.      When applying for a license to open a new pit or quarry, the operator and MNR agree that it will be an ‘interim land use’. Adding a recycling operation will obviously increase the life span of a pit. It seems this creates another way to extend an operation indefinitely and avoid rehabilitation, virtually forever.

To characterize the push for recycling as something the Ontario public wants is a bit of a stretch.

Does ‘the public’ want more recycling?   …. Absolutely.

Do they want expanded industrial operations, with more huge trucks coming and going from their neighbourhood pit forever?  …. Absolutely not!

So we’ve asked just how it’s been determined that industrial recycling in gravel pits represents ‘the public’s wishes’. The only answer we’ve heard is that there are Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO’s) and special interest groups voicing their opinions.

Well, DUH … is it any surprise that the Ontario Stone Sand and Gravel Association (OSSGA) might lobby the government, claiming to represent ‘the public interest’?  But …What about input from groups like Gravel Watch, who more genuinely represent the public interest – and WITHOUT the taint of ties to Industry! Have they been heard? Apparently NOT.

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Industrial recycling operations should be located in industrial areas, not in open pit mines that are often located in rural residential areas.

But recycling is just one part of a bigger picture. It must be implemented with a comprehensive and well thought out plan. As it impacts the future of aggregate mining, it must deal with questions of ‘need’, resource life-cycle management, transportation, alternative materials, and full cost financial accounting . To hand recycling responsibility to the MNR and their aggregate industry friends without such thorough consideration is dangerously short-sighted.

Once again, the MNR and Minister Gravelle appear to have demonstrated a lack of understanding of their portfolio responsibilities, and once again, the aggregate tail seems to be wagging the dog.

In short, the MNR’s handling of this issue seems superficial and inadequate, serving the wishes of their cronies at the expense of ordinary citizens!

Is this acceptable? What can be done? Are ordinary citizens willing to do anything about it? Who owns this province anyway? … You? … or the politicians and their ‘insider’ friends?

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So, since you don’t have preferred access to the decision-makers, we suggest it’s time to call, email and write your MPP, to tell them that weakening the Niagara Escarpment protections is completely unacceptable.

Call, email and write Minister Gravelle and all opposition critics. Try to be civil, which might be difficult, and tell them it is time the aggregate industry stopped dictating policy in Ontario – starting with this recycling-in-pits fiasco.

Call, email and write your local newspapers and news web sites. Tell them these sorts of policies are bad for our province.

It’s time for a concerted effort to send the message to OUR elected officials that we will be Silent No More.

After all, they are supposed to be working for US!

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More on Gags and Gagging …

Dedicated to Digging for Truth, Blasting the Myths, and Etching Reality in Stone.

Our previous post on gags … here … brings to mind the Environmental Commissioner of  Ontario’s 2012 report called “Losing Touch” in which ECO Gord Miller says: “Lately there has been a marked change in the behaviour of some ministries in respecting the rights of the citizens of Ontario under the EBR [Environmental Bill of Rights]”
He goes on to say: “This disregard for the rights of Ontarians has increased to a scope and degree such that I find it necessary to break out this portion of my statutory reporting requirements into its own part, so that Legislators can focus on the implications of the situation.” and: “in recent years, the ministry has increasingly evaded its obligations under the EBR, depriving the public of its established rights.” (emphasis added)
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Because Ontario Government Ministries are avoiding their responsibilities in seeking input from Ontarians via the EBR, the citizens of Ontario are being effectively MUZZLED, or as we say, GAGGED.
But we go even further. We suggest that even when comments are properly sought and received, they are rarely if ever properly considered and incorporated into the legislation or regulations affected.

The ECO concludes that “it appears that elements of the bureaucratic institution called the Ontario Public Service, which was created to support and implement the will of the people’s Legislative Assembly, are somehow losing touch with their role and responsibilities, at least with regard to the Environmental Bill of Rights.”
The Environmental Law Section of the Ontario Bar Association has commented on this sorry state of affairs, where the Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Natural Resources simply ignore their responsibilities. You can read the OBA report here: http://www.oba.org/en/pdf/sec_news_env_oct12_Ministries_Shaw.pdf

The result of all this avoidance and ignoring of citizen input is a sense of futility on the part of ever-growing segments of society. The attitude becomes: “Why comment when they don’t listen anyway! What’s the use?”
This attitude gives the politicians and bureaucrats an opportunity to deceive themselves into thinking that they have the tacit consent of the majority of their constituents, when the truth is that vast numbers of citizens are fed up with the futility of the exercise.
So we should not be surprised when we see more and more public tantrums  organized by people who are fed up with being gagged.
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Is this what you would call a ‘civilized representative democracy’?

Wouldn’t it be better to remove the gags and actually be heard by those we hire (elect) to work for us?

Put Up or Shut Up!

Dedicated to Digging for Truth, Blasting the Myths, and Etching Reality in Stone.

We came across some documents the other day of particular interest.

The pieces in question were written by Ben Lansink, from Lansink Appraisals, and Michael McCann of McCann Appraisal, LLC.  They express their observations, opinions and case study results, from their personal and business experience, regarding wind turbines and the various effects they have on the environment, people’s health, and property values.

Lansink’s “Case Studies” are factual, well written, documented, very well thought out and professionally presented. His report disagrees with most of what the Ontario government has to say about the industry, and will therefore, likely, be completely ignored by ‘whoever is currently in charge of Ontario.’ (this seems to be a bit of a mystery right now as we seem to have no acting premier or functioning government!)

The parts of the documents most interesting to us were with regard to property values. Not the fact that Wind Turbines negatively affected property values, as that is common sense, but that there should be “Property Value Guarantees (PVG’s) for personal properties” situated near these sorts of disamenities.

The quotes of interest were:

“WHAT motivates developers is obvious … extensive, subsidized profits. That is what drives all development by private companies; the expectation of profits.”

“And while profitable development is conceptually a good thing, it should not be at the expense of neighboring property owners, either in terms of their home value, or their health and quality of life.”

“However, … Mr. Ben Hoen, [a wind farm appraiser/advocate] has now gone on record saying that Property Value Guarantees should be used for nearby homeowners, and that “if wind developers won’t guarantee that, then they really don’t have a leg to stand on”.

And, the magnitude of value lost is “the single most important quantitative question, … as that is the basis for monetary damage claims for property devaluation, or as a reasonably supported basis for either denying projects or conditioning the approval with a relevant and meaningful, bonded Property Value Guarantee (PVG).”

A Property Value Guarantee” is a very easy concept to understand.

If disamenities, like wind farms, hydro corridors, railways, gravel pits, or quarries want to situate in your area, the operators must ensure your pre-disamenity property value – as established by an independent appraiser and relative to similar properties not in proximity to a disamenity – is achieved if you decide to sell.

If, for example, your home was worth $500,000 prior to the announcement of a pit or quarry operation, and you then must sell your property for 30% less than comparable unaffected properties, the pit or quarry operator would compensate you, or purchase your property. There will thus be NO LOSERS when the pit or quarry opens, and the full cost of the operation will be accounted for.

Queens_Park2Most politicians and pit advocates claim there are NO negative property value impacts from these operations.

They are, in effect, ‘gravel cost deniers’.

If their assertions are true, it’s obvious there WOULD BE NO COST or RISK incurred by the operator by providing a PVG. So when they make the claim of no impacts, we say “Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is”.

If, on the other hand, there actually are losses imposed on neighbours and municipalities (in the form of reduced tax base and infrastructure costs), the operator should have to calculate that risk and cost into his business plan and provide a bond (or PVG) to compensate for such losses. If the potential revenue from the operation is not sufficient to cover all such costs, we would assume he would not open the pit; but that would be his financial decision to make.

Property value compensation for properties around pits and quarries has been denied and ignored for too many years. It is a reality that everyone should be facing!

To believe that property values will drop only if the fact is talked about is irrational!

It has been demonstrated that values drop as soon as a pit or quarry application is announced.

It’s high time that politicians and the Aggregate Industry get their heads out of the sand and stop acting as if they have never heard of the concept … and either Put Up or Shut Up.