Parties settle in Haliburton biochar OMB hearing

By Jenn Watt

Published Aug. 30 2017

Parties to the Ontario Municipal Board hearing regarding whether to permit a biochar facility on Kennaway Road agreed on a settlement in the evening hours of Tuesday Aug. 29.

On Wednesday Aug. 30 the second day of a scheduled three-day OMB hearing at Dysart et al council chambers Leo Longo representing Haliburton Forest said the parties had come to an agreement.

“I’m pleased to report that my client and Mr. [Peter] Pickfield’s client have reached a settlement in this matter that involves a couple of amendments to the bylaws before the board” Longo told OMB member Mary-Anne Sills .

He asked planner Wayne Simpson to speak to the agreed upon amendments to the bylaw.

The changes involve narrowing the scope of what Haliburton Forest Biochar can do on the property which is near Highway 118 east of Haliburton.

The bylaw now states that “uses shall be limited to a manufacturing and/or processing plant involving wood wood products wood byproducts and related finishing or processing materials only but not including a raw wood and planing mill pulp and paper mill outdoor application of paints lumber storage yard or a retail lumber and buildings supply establishment.”

“The purpose of that is to focus on the manufacturing and processing uses to [the] resource industry that’s very specific to the nature of the Haliburton economy” said Simpson.

The other change is to setbacks of all buildings from the edges of the property providing additional space.

Sills called the settlement a pleasant surprise and thanked the parties for coming to an agreement.

Appellants in the hearing included Catharine Gonnsen Laurie Wheeler Larry Lowenstein and Douglas Buchanan. Their concerns included that the facility presented a noxious use was a waste processing plant and that the bylaw was not consistent with the provincial policy and doesn't conform to local municipal official plans.

Gonnsen said she would make the best of what the settlement offered and that she was concerned about future development on lands in and around the Kennaway Road area unrelated to Haliburton Forest.

She and Martin Rist who was observing the hearing on Wednesday said that finding information on Haliburton Forest Biochar's plans was difficult.

"We had to put in an application to the Ministry of the Environment under freedom of information" Gonnsen said. New information only came forward through witness statements "at the 11th hour" she noted.

"It was difficult as a lay[person] … to get full information" Rist said.

Haliburton Forest Biochar still needs to attain approval from the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change addressing air and noise at the facility.

The Forest intends to use wood sawdust to make biochar which is created using high temperatures. The process captures carbon delaying its release into the atmosphere. The product can be used as a soil amendment however Haliburton Forest Biochar director Malcolm Cockwell said his company is intending to sell it for use in industrial manufacturing.

"Our product's being used in industrial manufacturing to displace a fossil fuel product called carbon black" he told the Echo in an interview following Wednesday's meeting. "Pound for pound we are displacing a fossil fuel product in the Canadian manufacturing sector."

Assuming Haliburton Forest Biochar receives the necessary permissions to operate they will initially be employing four people. Cockwell said at full capacity the facility will employ 20 people locally.

The initiative has received substantial support from several funding bodies including a $1 million grant from the Centre for Research and Innovation in the Bio-Economy and $100000 through Haliburton County Development Corporation's collaborative economic development program Cockwell said.

See Tuesday's Haliburton Echo for more.