Nova Scotia

Feds could get involved in Northern Pulp assessment

Canada’s environment minister is not ruling out a federal environmental assessment for a new treatment facility for the Northern Pulp mill in Pictou County.

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna says she'll wait for final project proposal

The Northern Pulp Nova Scotia Corporation mill is expected to deliver its final proposal for a new treatment facility sometime this fall. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

Canada's environment minister is not ruling out a federal environmental assessment for a new treatment facility for the Northern Pulp mill in Pictou County.

Catherine McKenna made the comments in Dartmouth on Tuesday, where she was attending an energy efficiency announcement.

While final details of the treatment facility for the mill haven't been released, the company's plan for treated waste to be transported to the Northumberland Strait via a pipe has sparked major protests from area First Nations communities, fishermen, tourism operators and others in the region concerned about the potential effects.

Federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna was in Dartmouth, N.S., on Tuesday. (CBC)

P.E.I. Premier Wade MacLauchlin has also voiced his concerns, recently writing to McKenna and Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil to suggest there be a more collaborative approach than an environmental assessment. But, he said, if the environment assessment is what's to happen that it be handled by Ottawa with P.E.I. engaged in the process.

McKenna told reporters in Dartmouth any major project must be done in a sustainable way. She said she's aware of the review process happening at the provincial level and she hopes "it takes into account the differing perspectives with enough time to hear from folks that have concerns, including Indigenous peoples."

As for requests that her department become directly involved, McKenna said a final decision on whether to do a federal environmental assessment won't be made until the final project proposal is ready.

"We're certainly watching this closely," she said.

"We will be assessing it once we have the final proposal from the proponent."

Hundreds of boats from all three Maritime provinces joined a rally on the water last week against Northern Pulp's plan to put an effluent pipe into the Northumberland Strait. (Nic Meloney/CBC)

Speaking at a news conference with Atlantic premiers and federal cabinet ministers on P.E.I. on Tuesday, MacLauchlin said his responsibility is to speak for the concerns of his province, and tourism and fishery operators and First Nations have all expressed concerns to him about the proposal to pipe treated effluent into the Strait.

McNeil told reporters his government remains committed to seeing the current treatment site at Boat Harbour closed and to have a new treatment site replace it. Legislation passed in Nova Scotia requires Boat Harbour to be closed to effluent from the mill in 2020.

McNeil said right now the matter remains the responsibility of the province's Environment Department and they are working to find a balance of people's concerns.

Won't jeopardize the fishery

"We're not losing sight of the anxiety that people are feeling in those communities, particularly in the fishing industry," he said.

McNeil said he comes from a part of the province where the economy is built around fishing.

"Our government will not put in jeopardy that industry, but we believe you can co-exist and we're looking to strike the right balance, but it will be based on science and on fact."

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About the Author

Michael Gorman is a reporter in Nova Scotia whose coverage areas include Province House, rural communities, and health care. Contact him with story ideas at michael.gorman@cbc.ca