Northern Pulp says there is 'no plan B' without deadline extension; will be 'forced' to close

P&PC Staff
March 06, 2019
By P&PC Staff
March 6, 2019 – Representatives at the Northern Pulp mill have reiterated that without an extension on the January 2020 deadline for its wastewater treatment plan, it will be forced to close its mill in Abercrombie, Nova Scotia, saying there is “no plan B.”

“It needs to be said – without Northern Pulp there can be no plan B that does not include massive job losses,” says Jean-Francois Guillot, vice-president operations east with Paper Excellence Canada, owner of Northern Pulp, in a statement. “The forestry sector’s future was discussed [by Premier Stephen McNeil and Progressive Conservative leader Tim Houston] in the legislature last week, but no one discussed a short extension for our wastewater treatment facility.”

Guillot continues, “Without a short extension, we will be forced by the government to cease operating and that will cost jobs throughout rural Nova Scotia.”

Northern Pulp has been ordered by the province to stop diverting its untreated effluent through a treatment facility close to the Pictou Landing First Nations reserve and into Boat Harbour by January 2020. Its alternate plan, which it formally submitted to Nova Scotia’s environment department in February for provincial assessment, includes a new effluent treatment facility constructed on Northern Pulp property. A 15.5-kilometre water pipe would deliver treated effluent to Caribou Harbour.

The plan has been criticized by environmental and fisheries groups in Nova Scotia such as Friends of the Northumberland Strait, who say the new pipeline plan remains a threat not only to the environment, but also the livelihoods of the local fishermen.

Fishermen created a blockade of boats on the Northumberland Strait – where the new pipeline would pass through – for more than two months in the fall of 2018, preventing Northern Pulp’s survey boats from accessing the waters to complete research required for its environmental assessment application. The mill maintains that the delay impacted its ability to complete its research in a timely manner, which is why it has requested a one-year extension.

Several independent senators and fisheries researchers have called on the federal government to step in and conduct its own environmental assessment.

Related news
Northern Pulp formally submits new effluent drainage plan
Northern Pulp asks for one-year extension on effluent plan
Nova Scotia foresters concerned as Northern Pulp deadline looms
Northern Pulp: Fishermen's group 'appalled' about lack of transparency

In November 2018, Mike Duffy, an independent senator from P.E.I., submitted a statement to the senate on behalf of senators Dan Christmas (Nova Scotia), Brian Francis (P.E.I.) and Diane Griffin (P.E.I.) that called Northern Pulp's activity "dangerous" because it could harm local fishing habitats. The senators say that since the fishing industries could be affected in Quebec as well as Nova Scotia, the federal government should be involved.

But according to The Canadian Press, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Mar. 4, 2019 that there are no plans for a separate federal environmental assessment on Northern Pulp.

During a visit to Prince Edward Island, Trudeau said that while the government is concerned about the effluent plan, the jurisdiction of the assessment lies with the province.

Paper Excellence’s Guillot says that the project, once completed, “will be one of the most environmentally responsible mills in Canada.”

The mill says the new plan is better for the environment than the existing system it and 80 per cent of other kraft mills use, which sends untreated effluent to aerating and settling lagoons.

Northern Pulp's closure would result in the layoff of 277 employees, with wide-reaching impacts on the forestry sector in Nova Scotia. The mill supplies about 40 per cent of logs used by major sawmills in the central and eastern parts of the province, and it purchases nearly all of the wood chips produced by Nova Scotia sawmills.

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Mike Duffy is an independent senator from Nova Scotia. He is an independent senator from P.E.I.

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