April 4, 2019 – The head of Unifor’s Atlantic division met with the Nova Scotia premier on April 3 to discuss the future of the Northern Pulp mill, expressing disappointment with the province’s environmental assessment request last week.
After completing an environmental assessment on the mill’s new plan – which would see wastewater treated in a new facility on Northern Pulp property and piped underground over 15 kilometres to empty into Northumberland Strait – the province requested on March 29 that the mill provide further information about environmental impact in the form of a “focus report.”
Northern Pulp’s parent company, Paper Excellence, has said that despite the report not being due for another year, no additional extension on the province’s January 2020 deadline for the mill to implement a new effluent treatment plan means it will be forced to close.
According to The Canadian Press, Lana Payne, Atlantic regional director of Unifor, told Premier Stephen McNeil on April 3 that keeping the mill open is paramount – not only for the 240 union members working at the mill, but also for the thousands of indirect forestry sector jobs that depend on the mill’s operation.
Northern Pulp was given five years by the province to remove its untreated effluent from passing through land near a First Nations reserve. The mill says that the delay in its research process due to protests from local fishermen was a contributing factor to it not meeting the deadline.
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Payne indicated that Unifor will be working with Northern Pulp to ensure those answers are compiled as soon as possible.
“We expect the company to meet and even exceed environmental laws and regulations and to conduct whatever studies are required, but [the March 29] decision – given the timelines around getting the effluent treatment plant completed – will inevitably result in the loss of thousands of jobs associated with the operation of the mill,” said Payne in a release issued last week.
McNeil said that he thinks the mill will still be able to operate, provided it comes up with an acceptable solution. “I told them I still believe this mill can operate in the province,” he said to The Canadian Press. “What we need is the company to focus on a project that can have a permit.”
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