Premier Darrell Dexter is denying allegations that the province's final licensing agreement with the Port Hawkesbury paper mill weakens forest protection on Crown lands where Stern is permitted to cut wood.
The Ecology Action Centre contends the final agreement signed Friday between the province and Stern Partners Inc. — an affiliate of Pacific West Commercial Corp. — includes a clause that would allow the newly reopened mill to drop its certification by the Forest Stewardship Council.
The mill's previous owners, including Stora Enso and NewPage, cut wood using sustainable practices approved by the Forest Stewardship Council — an independent, non-governmental organization that tells consumers when a company's forestry practices are well-managed and sustainable.
But the final agreement with Stern Partners Inc. includes a clause allowing the mill to drop that practice.
The Stern license now includes 40 per cent of all the Crown land in the province, as well as close to 90,000 hectares identified as potential "protected places."
Stern can't log there now, but when talking to reporters Wednesday the Minister of Natural Resources Charlie Parker said it could happen after 2014.
"It's possible, but also many other uses are possible," he said.
The minister said Stern is paying more to the province than NewPage did to harvest wood from Crown land. That's another of the terms contained in the Crown lands agreement.
The province is now considering how much of the agreement it will make public.
NewPage Corp. shut down the mill in September 2011, throwing 600 employees out of work.
After almost a year of negotiations, Pacific West Commercial Corp. agreed to buy the mill for $33 million last Friday. The mill resumed making paper Wednesday with 260 employees.
Under a deal struck last month, the Nova Scotia government is providing a $124.5-million aid package on top of the $36.8 million it has spent keeping the mill in a so-called hot idle state.
The deal also includes an amended discount power rate agreement with Nova Scotia Power Inc. The mill is the utility's largest customer.