NOVA SCOTIA (From news reports) -- Northern Pulp has informed the provincial government that it will continue with the environmental process for a proposed effluent treatment plant.
"Since the company has chosen to carry on with the environmental assessment process, we are legally required to continue," provincial Environment Minister Gordon Wilson said in a news release.
"I want to assure Nova Scotians that, as Premier McNeil has confirmed, the Boat Harbour Act will be enforced as of Jan. 31."
Brian Baarda, chief executive of Paper Excellence Canada, Northern Pulp's parent company, made it clear at a Dec. 20 news conference in downtown Halifax that the company was closing the Abercrombie Point mill in Pictou County.
Baarda made the statement a short time after Premier Stephen McNeil had announced that there would be no extension to the Boat Harbour Act, legislating the closure of the mill's long-used effluent treatment plant by Jan. 31.
"This decision ensures the closure of Northern Pulp, the devastation of Nova Scotia's forest industry, the loss of 2,700 rural jobs and a significant impact to another 8,300 forestry jobs across Nova Scotia," Baarda said of the premier's decision.
It is not immediately clear what the company's decision to continue with the assessment process means for any potential long-term viability of the mill.
Three days before McNeil's announcement, Wilson had withheld approval of Northern Pulp's focus report in support of a proposed effluent treatment facility that would discharge treated effluent into the Northumberland Strait.
As regulator of the project, Wilson said he concluded that more science-based evidence is needed to properly assess the potential risk to air, water, fish and human health.
At that time, Wilson gave the company the opportunity to file an environmental assessment report, a report that could take up to two years to complete.
Draft terms of reference for that environmental assessment report were released Wednesday by the Environment Department.
"Northern Pulp is expected to prepare an environmental assessment report that addresses the deficiencies in the information provided to date through the environmental assessment process and which fulfills the intent of the terms of reference," the draft term document states. "The environmental assessment report must consider all the effects that are likely to arise from the project, including any not explicitly identified in the terms of reference. The EA report will be used to meet the requirements of a provincial Class I undertaking."
The environmental assessment report from the company must include, among other requirements, a description of and reason for the project, alternative methods of carrying out the waste water disposal and a description of the environmental risks, including any effects on species or habitats at risk, along with measures that can be taken to prevent or mitigate those risks.
The report also must identify a program to monitor environmental effects produced by the project during its construction, operation and abandonment phases and a program of public information to explain the project.
The information in the report is to be prepared taking into consideration comments from the public, the provincial Environment Department, the federal government and its agencies, municipalities in the vicinity of the project, any affected aboriginal people or cultural community and neighbouring jurisdictions to Nova Scotia in the vicinity of the project. Public and government reviewers have 30 days, until Feb. 7, to comment on the draft terms of reference. Once that happens, the company will have a chance to comment on the draft.
A final terms of reference will be provided to the company by early April.
Once the terms of reference are final, the company will have up to two years to complete the environmental assessment report.
Northern Pulp initially registered its effluent treatment plant project for assessment in February but previous environment minister Margaret Miller asked for a company focus report on March 29 to provide additional information.
That focus report was submitted on Oct. 2 and Wilson on Dec. 17 called for more project information in the form of an environmental assessment report.