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This week’s mailbox: compost and energy

Open letter to the City of Whitehorse Mayor and Council

Open letter to the City of Whitehorse Mayor and Council

It’s International Compost Awareness Week (May 1-7) — an opportune moment to ask a compost-related question: Why is the City of Whitehorse secretly dumping organics in direct contravention of its own Waste Management bylaw? This crass double-standard wastes compost and money, produces greenhouse gases and shortens landfill life. Yet roughly 12,000 tonnes of compost have been quietly dumped, off the books, since 2009.

What I find so exasperating is there’s no need for this because a perfectly viable home-grown solution is available. Moreover, it was in 2009 the City of Whitehorse originally presented me with this problem, which I’ll come back to.

Yet for years it has been politically expedient to pretend this is not the issue it really is. This contradicts the intent of the 2019 Climate Change Emergency Declaration. It undermines the city’s efforts at waste diversion, its credibility as a waste management regulator, and legitimacy as a player in Climate Action. The city has been getting away with this because it can - there is no public accountability or oversight.

If the Canadian composting industry gave out prizes, Whitehorse would win awards. It produces compost to exacting standards by a well-trained and resourced city crew. Despite best efforts, roughly half of Whitehorse’s compost cannot be used because it contains so much garbage - sadly not unusual in the industry.

Politically, the city’s solution is education: Let’s train people to not put garbage in their compost bins. Education is important, but is ineffective against the unprecedented growth of global plastics production and consumption. Plastic is in the air, water, and soil. It’s in our bodies and food. And it’s in our compost. I began working on a solution to this, and by 2014 invented a machine that produced clean, garbage-free compost. Landfill disposal was no longer required. It was, and remains, a major technological breakthrough protected by international patents, and was snapped-up by a major global manufacturer.

The city could have benefitted from this technology in 2014 - at no cost- yet ignored this and other salient facts when the composting contract was tendered. Councillors Curteanu and Cameron, among others, said it was too expensive, before cancelling it. Unfortunately for us taxpayers, they were quite wrong. The city-run facility resulted in an eye-watering 135 per cent cost hike compared to my company’s fee. Customer service was cut, distribution eliminated, and organic certification lost. Finally, the city kicked innovation and millions of dollars in investment to the curb.

Despite this bone-headedness, my interest in our community’s compost remains - we need it for our research and development as we create ever larger machines. We should be doing this here, to the benefit of our own community, rather than being forced to leave the territory to find a welcoming facility with properly motivated senior management.

It could be an easy and inexpensive climate action win for the city, bring it into compliance with its own bylaws, and provide more, clean compost. But this will require honesty and leadership. Will the current mayor and council take the city’s bylaws and climate emergency declaration seriously, or is it really just greenwashed business as usual? I, and many community members await your response.


Garret Gillespie


Open letter to Tracy-Anne Mcphee, Minister of Justice and John Streicker, Minister Responsible for Yukon Energy Corporation

I have been asked by several people, why there has not been any letters in the paper lately by the Yukon Utilities Consumers’ Group. We have been singing the same tune to the various governments of the day and the regulator for many, many years and this has been on deaf ears or given ‘lip-service’ that “We are looking at this”. So we got tired!

We have been asking for electrical rate regulation to undergo a reform to get the Yukon up-to-date with modern regulatory processes that work with the electrical utilities to reward them to perform more efficiently and to cut the costs for rate regulation. Our present model of regulation was developed in 1986 when Yukon Energy Corporation was formed to take over the assets of NCPC and has not evolved, like everywhere else.

The latest news we are now getting from politicians and the media is that ATCO Electric Yukon is and has been over-earning since their last rate increase application. It is good that this private company has obviously become more effective in controlling their costs, while at the same time increasing their sales. This has resulted in greater profits. But they should be sharing this “good times” with the ratepayers they serve. That is not only good business, but also demonstrates being a good corporate citizen. But our regulatory stream nor government policy is not set up to challenge this.

Our consumers’ organization has been arguing, since 1994, that the two utilities use regulatory gamesmanship to manipulate their profits after every rate hearing. They get their requested rate increase and then they OVEREARN on their regulatory return. Both the various governments in power and the regulator have allowed this time and time again.

The other relevant matter now concerning us is that the Yukon Energy Corporation in their last rate hearing, praised themselves for developing an application that would result in no increase on our bills. The UCG argued that this was simply “smoke and mirrors,” but the regulator bought it. What they did was match their new revenue requirement increases with the ending of the last rate true-up adjustment rider and then freezing of the fuel rider (Rider F) for the 2021 year. This was all good in principle, but in reality the shit hit the fan when they came out with their compliance filing on this.

In this filing, Yukon Energy claims an increased revenue requirement rider of 11.99% to be added to the existing Rider J, resulting in 34.34% on our bills. On top of this they request a true-up rider, for guess what???? Top up or true up revenues for 2021, along with a Rider F true-up. An added 2.56 per cent increase on our bills for two years, starting in June. So much for the coordination and stabilization of our billing. They now claim their bill stability was only for 2021.

As well, watch your bills carefully, because when the threshold is met, the utilities will again activate their fuel Rider F on our bills, which they justify is granted to them by a government decree. The same holds true with the yearly processing of their darling Diesel Contingency fund. So Yukon Energy presents a budget to their regulator and then they have these guarantors to fill in their profit margin made possible by government orders. In the meantime the YEC is spending millions on increasing their bureaucracy, more millions on preferred consultant firms and added millions for their regulatory procedures. TIME FOR REFORM?

Roger Rondeau