PICTOU LANDING – Northern Pulp will be granted a nine-month extension on its Boat Harbour permit so the government can continue to review information critical to deciding if it will receive a longer renewal, said the province’s environment minister.
Showdown on Boat Harbour
Randy Delorey said Northern Pulp’s permit for dumping wastewater into Boat Harbour expires on April 19, and his department has been collecting information from the company and community to decide if the permit should be renewed again.
However, he said, the information is so extensive, including an 800-page document submitted by Pictou Landing First Nations two weeks ago, that his staff has asked for more time to review everything before any decision is made on a permit renewal.
“We collected information from Northern Pulp to help with any decision in respect to renewal and the process also included engaging with the First Nations community,” he said. “We did reach out to them and got an extensive document back.”
Delorey said Pictou Landing First Nations Chief Andrea Paul has also requested a meeting with him to discuss Boat Harbour and his staff is in the process of setting up an appropriate time for this to take place.
In addition to this, he said, the government wants Northern Pulp to do some more of its own community consultation and report back to government with its findings.
He said the permit extension is until Jan. 30, 2015, after which a decision will be made on a permit renewal. He added most industrial permits are renewed for 10 years at a time, but each situation is unique and changes can be made to the terms and conditions if necessary.
Paul said Thursday that Pictou Landing First Nations is looking forward to meeting with Delorey to discuss Boat Harbour, but she also warned that it will take “any means necessary” to prevent more wastewater being pumped into Boat Harbour.
The release states that the First Nations people will not allow the provincial government to extend Northern Pulp’s permit to dump wastewater into the former tidal lagoon.
“We will use any means necessary to protect our land and our people,” Paul said. “What else can we do? Our own provincial government is ignoring the law,” he said.
Paul said the minister of environment’s decision on the extension violates an agreement reached with the band in 1995 and flies in the face of a recent Nova Scotia Liberal party resolution calling upon the government to take action on Boat Harbour.
A release from Pictou Landing First Nations states that exposure to odours associated with pulp mills, like those emanating from Boat Harbour, has been linked to adverse health effects. In 1995, the province agreed to close the Boat Harbour wastewater treatment facility by Dec. 31, 2005. In exchange the First Nation agreed not to take legal or other action against the facility for 10 years.
It states the 2005 deadline was pushed to Dec. 31, 2008, in the hope that closure of the facility could be avoided by modifying the system. No such modification took place. In a letter dated December 4, 2008, she said, the Conservative government of the day reaffirmed the province’s commitment to close the Boat Harbour treatment facility.
The First Nations release says that neither the NDP nor the Liberals have lived up to the agreement since. This is likely due to the $100 million price tag for a new facility that the province agreed to absorb in 1995 as part of a separate deal struck with the mill owners, Paul said.
Paul added the mill’s owner cannot discharge wastewater into Boat Harbour without approval of the minister under the Environment Act. The previous NDP environment minister issued an approval in 2011 that was extended one year ago.
Pictou West MLA Karla MacFarlane agreed that the resolution at the Liberal AGM did give Pictou County residents hope that some kind of action would be taken, but she questions why no further steps have followed to bring it up in the legislature.
“It recognized the significant and negative impacts on the environment, health, and well-being of northern Nova Scotia. It acknowledged the impact on Pictou Landing and the First Nation community, and it resolved that the government take immediate and effective steps to clean up Boat Harbour. I can't help but wonder why the government passed this resolution at the AGM but didn't bring it to the house,” she said. “Of greater concern, why is there nothing in the budget for Boat Harbour? Are they scared they will be held accountable? They shouldn't be, as I have stated over and over in many interviews that we are all accountable.”
Delorey said many motions were passed at the party’s AGM and it takes more than a few days to have them processed.
“This is an active file we are working with and we have to have engagement from the company and the community,” he said.
As a resident of Antigonish, Delorey said he is familiar with Boat Harbour and environmental and health concerns surrounding it, but he also comes from an “academic” background and wants all the facts in place before he makes a decision.
“I try to collect information and make informed decisions and I want to make sure it is the right decision,” he said. “I am willing to step up and make that face-to-face engagement.”