Nova Scotia

Province releases draft terms for Northern Pulp's environmental assessment report

Nova Scotia’s Environment Department has outlined the information it wants from Northern Pulp before the environment minister will decide whether to approve the shuttered mill’s restart plan.

The public can comment on the draft document until the end of January

The Northern Pulp mill in Abercrombie Point, N.S., photographed from the Pictou causeway in December 2019. The mill went into hibernation in January 2020. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

Nova Scotia's Environment Department has outlined the information it wants from Northern Pulp before the environment minister will decide whether to approve the shuttered mill's plan to restart.

The draft terms of reference are open for public comment until Jan. 31, and the final terms will be released no more than 40 days later. At that point, the two-year clock will start for the mill owners to submit a report with all the requested information.

The report will have to provide detailed descriptions and justifications for every component of the plan, which includes the construction of a new effluent treatment facility and a pipeline into Pictou Harbour where treated waste would be released.

It will have to describe the potential environmental impacts and measures that could be taken to prevent, mitigate or remedy any negative effects. 

Northern Pulp also has to propose programs for monitoring the environmental effects during construction, operation and abandonment phases, and a program for informing the public about the project.

The report has to take into consideration comments from the public, the provincial and federal governments, municipalities in the vicinity of the project, any Indigenous people or communities that are affected and any neighbouring jurisdictions outside Nova Scotia but still in the vicinity of the project.

Northern Pulp has already submitted a 126-page description of its proposal, but this additional report is meant to provide more details and evidence.

When the company tried to get approval for a different effluent treatment plan two years ago, the final environmental assessment report included dozens of studies and thousands of pages of documents.

That proposal was never approved and it was withdrawn earlier this year, but some of the information from the old report could be referenced in the new one, if it's still pertinent.

If the plan gets provincial approval, Northern Pulp has said the mill could be up and running again by 2026.

Meanwhile, the mill's owners are seeking up to $450 million from the province for damages and lost profits from the legislated closure of the mill's former effluent treatment facility at Boat Harbour. Last week, the company filed a lawsuit in Nova Scotia Supreme Court.


Taryn Grant


Taryn Grant is a Halifax-based reporter and web writer for CBC Nova Scotia. You can email her with tips and feedback at


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