N.S. Power given rights to Crown wood: critic
Biomass plant will operate even if NewPage fails
A critic of Nova Scotia Power's biomass plant under construction in Point Tupper said the utility has been given the right to harvest 175,000 tonnes of biomass on Crown land if the NewPage mill goes out of business.
Neal Livingston, a small hydro producer and an environmentalist, said most ratepayers don't realize that if NewPage goes out of business, the province has agreed to give Nova Scotia Power access to the wood needed for the plant.
"Well, it's like a corporate takeover. They have been given first dibs on a million acres of Crown land and NSP is effectively in the controlling position," he said.
Nova Scotia Power has said it intends to finish the $200-million biomass plant, even if the NewPage pulp and paper mill shuts down permanently.
Livingston said the power utility has no experience in forestry, but his strongest criticism is reserved for the government's decision to handover a big chunk of the province's wood supply with no public discussion.
"This should be a complete scandal that the government gave them this right to Crown land," he said.
"I mean, anybody who would want to buy NewPage is suddenly buying them without their biomass supply and without the ability to generate their own power if they want to do that. So, effectively, it's a much diminished asset."
A Natural Resources Department spokesman said the province has agreed to supply wood from its Crown land to keep the mill's boiler running if it does cease operations.
Premier Darrell Dexter said the province is working with NewPage to try and ensure the mill stays in business.
Late Tuesday, Dexter confirmed the company has filed for bankruptcy.
The biomass plant is being built to meet new provincial rules that say 25 per cent of the province's electricity must come from renewable sources by 2015.