Nova Scotia

Northern Pulp ordered to address emissions, fined $697.50

Premier Stephen McNeil said Tuesday he was taken off guard by the small size of the fine that can be issued.

Environment Minister says company's permit could be revoked if it keeps failing emission tests

This is the third year in a row emissions from the power boiler at the Northern Pulp mill exceeded the limits set down by the Environment Department. (Jeorge Sadi/CBC)

Northern Pulp has been ordered to address air pollution levels at its Pictou County mill and has been issued a fine of $697.50, an amount the premier himself is uncertain can act as enough of a deterrent.

The province announced the fine and the ministerial order of Environment Minister Iain Rankin on Tuesday. Emissions from the mill's power boiler have repeatedly exceeded regulations.

"It's the appropriate fine based on their history and their compliance at the mill," said Rankin.

Rankin said three tests in the last 10 at the mill found it was not compliant. The mill has been warned before, he said, but now it is time to "step it up to that next level."

Comply or permit could be revoked

This is the third year the mill, located Pictou County, exceeded emissions limits set by the province.

The mill's industrial approval requires it to operate within a measure of 150 milligrams per referenced cubic metre of particulate matter when stacks are tested. 

The test from June 2017 showed the power boiler at 224 milligrams per referenced cubit metre.

Nova Scotia Environment Minister Iain Rankin said Northern Pulp's permit could be revoked if it continued to fail emission tests. (CBC)

Premier Stephen McNeil said Tuesday he has asked Rankin and his department to look at the small size of the summary offence fine that can be issued, which he said took him off guard.

"I think it's a valid question: are they appropriate? But let's go do it evidence-based and not decide on whether or not how you're feeling today," McNeil said.

The province had imposed, but then retracted, a $697.50 fine on Northern Pulp last year for violating air pollution limits.

If the company doesn't comply with the ministerial order, Rankin said he could revoke the permit at Northern Pulp.

"If they don't come into compliance with the order then of course it's a possibility," said Rankin.

A court could levy more

In 2015, the mill, which is owned by Paper Excellence, spent $35 million on a new precipitator that captures particulate from its recovery boiler using static electricity.

When asked by reporters what would prevent the company from continuing to pay $700 fines rather than address the power boiler problems, Rankin said the intent of the order is to get the mill back into compliance.

"If you want to go to the next level, it's long-form prosecution. Then you're talking about the courts and the judicial system, which is separate from the legislative body," he said. "If we want go to that path, it may go down that into the future and then it's up to the court if they levy a higher fine."

What Northern Pulp must do

The order involves the company publicly posting the results of its emissions tests on its website until its industrial approval expires in 2020.

  Northern Pulp must also give the Environment Department its external consultant reports and training records related to the power boiler.

As the mill prepares to shut down temporarily this month, the order requires the company to give the department reports on what's planned with the shutdown, when the shutdown is over and what the company did to bring the power boiler into compliance.

With files from Jean Laroche