Nfld. & Labrador

Planned biofuel plant for Northern Peninsula 'still active,' minister says

Gerry Byrne says he's hopeful the project will come through, but admits the company has been slow to make progress.

PC MHA questions future of lagging biofuel venture aimed to revitialize region

Fisheries and Land Resources Minister Gerry Byrne says he remains hopeful for the biofuel project on the Northern Peninsula but admits the company has been slow to move on process. (Peter Cowan/CBC)

The future of the proposed Timberland biofuel plant on the Northern Peninsula isn't dead in the water, according to Minister Gerry Byrne, but it's far from a done deal.

PC MHA Pleaman Forsey asked about the plant during the opening of the fall sitting of the House of Assembly on Monday, nearly one year after Timberlands, the local subsidiary of Active Energy Group, secured timber rights.

"Twelve months have passed, no timber has been cut, no ground has been broken to build a plan," Forsey said during question period.

"The people on the Northern Peninsula is wondering if this project will happen at all."

Byrne, minister of fisheries and land resources, said his department has been in touch with the company in the last several weeks about the project. The U.K. company is "revising their positions based on their performance to date," Byrne said.

The company must harvest 40 per cent of its allocation in the first 30 months. (CBC)

"The project is still active. The company has been … arguably slow to kick it off," he said. 

Byrne stressed that if the project does tank, the government won't be on the hook.

"Taxpayers' money is safe," Byrne said, while taking a swipe at the Tories, which he said have 15 failed biofuel projects on their record.

"What we've done is expect our innovators to succeed using their own capacities."

We have great hopes, we have great ambition.- Minister Gerry Byrne

The provincial government issued two five-year commercial cutting permits to the company in November 2018 to harvest 100,000 cubic metres of timber annually to support operation of a wood pellet plant in Hawke's Bay.

The project aimed to create 25 full-time positions associated with plant operations, and 30 to 50 positions in harvesting and trucking.

"It's not the first time a company has come to Newfoundland and Labrador, a foreign investor, looking to work with local interests, local companies and local stakeholders to develop our biomass," Byrne said.

"The forestry sector will always be a vital and prosperous component of the economy of the Northern Peninsula. We have great hopes, we have great ambition. We recognize this project has certain risks associated with it."

There is a timeline associated with the timber permit, meaning if the company doesn't use it, it will lose it. The company must harvest 40 per cent of its allocation in the first 30 months.

No one from Active Energy Group immediately responded to questions from CBC News. 

Read more by CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Terry Roberts

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