New Brunswick

Irving peat moss project concerns council

Environmentalists are concerned a J.D. Irving project is not receiving proper scrutiny after changes to how the provincial government identifies and protects wetlands.

Environmentalists are concerned that a J.D. Irving project is not receiving proper scrutiny after changes to how the provincial government identifies and protects wetlands.

The Juniper Barrens is large bog owned by J.D. Irving Ltd., and the company is in the initial stages of developing it for a large peat moss operation.
David Coon, the executive director of the Conservation Council, said he's concerned about the lack of an EIA on the peat moss project. ((CBC))

The company pre-registered for an environmental impact assessment in August 2010 and filed officially for an assessment in February.

The Irving company conducted public meetings and altered its project. But the company received a letter from the Department of Environment in April saying it no longer had to file for an environmental assessment because the bog is now not on a government map that designates wetlands.

David Coon, the executive director of the Conservation Council of New Brunswick, said the department's decision to halt the EIA is absurd.

He said just because a project is not on the provincial government's map of wetlands, it should not cancel an environmental assessment.

"It's kind of like saying you can speed all you want as long as you don't see any speed limit signs, but if you see a speed limit sign then you are breaking the law," Coon said.

Environment Minister Margaret-Ann Blaney announced in March that she was scrapping a controversial map that designated as much as 18 per cent of the province as a wetland.

The controversial map, released in January, put many developers and lot owners in the position of having to prove their property was not a wetland.

Environmental rules being met

While J.D. Irving no longer has to complete a formal environmental assessment, a company official said it is still meeting strict environmental standards.

John Gilbert, a spokesman with J.D. Irving, said there are still other rules and regulations which protect the environment.
J.D. Irving started an environmental assessment on its proposed peat moss operation but was told it did not have to finish it. ((CBC))

"We have now a lot of requirements and permits so there are rules for peat mining regulations. We have air quality guidelines that we have to follow through specific to this project," Gilbert said.

The peat moss operation is expected to open as early as next year and Gilbert said it has a 15-year lifespan.

Gilbert said the company hired a well-known scientist in the peat industry to advise the company when developing the project.

He said J.D. Irving has taken many steps to safeguard the environment even though it did not need to finish a formal environmental impact assessment.

"The people can feel confident that the EIA that we did and the strict enforcement regulations and conditions to operate that we have will certainly protect the public's interest in the wetlands," Gilbert said.