Sound judg­ment

The Compass - - Editorial -

It’s an old mon­ster un­der a fa­mil­iar bed. Last week, a New­found­land and Labrador Supreme Court judge ruled that a pro­vin­cial cab­i­net min­is­ter took an im­proper en­vi­ron­men­tal short­cut to ap­prove a pro­ject that the gov­ern­ment is ea­ger to see un­der­way. The court ac­tion was launched by the At­lantic Salmon Fed­er­a­tion.

The min­is­ter had ap­proved a pro­posal to build a mas­sive salmon hatch­ery and fish farm in Placentia Bay, over­rul­ing a rec­om­men­da­tion by his own staff that the pro­ject un­dergo a full en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact state­ment (EIS).

The EIS could po­ten­tially de­lay Grieg NL Nurs­eries Ltd.’s pro­ject by at least a year.

Once again, we’re treated to ar­gu­ments about how en­vi­ron­men­tal leg­is­la­tion might drive away devel­op­ment.

Here’s Marys­town Mayor Sam Sy­nard dur­ing an in­ter­view with CBC: “We’re not new to aquaculture. Aquaculture has been go­ing on in the Con­nai­gre (Penin­sula) now for what, over a decade now? And it’s not new to us. So why all of sud­den is it new to us now?”

Well, that’s ex­actly why the en­vi­ron­men­tal as­sess­ment process is im­por­tant; it helps to tell if things are dif­fer­ent, and in this case, they ac­tu­ally are.

The part of the as­sess­ment process the Grieg ap­pli­ca­tion did go through points out that the pro­ject is based on sig­nif­i­cant new things. To quote the judge in the case, their pro­posal was be­lieved to be “the largest ex­pan­sion of salmon aquaculture in Eastern Canada, if not all of Canada, the first com­mer­cial use of Euro­peanstrain triploid salmon in Eastern Canada, the first use of the pro­posed spe­cific cage sys­tem in New­found­land and Labrador and the first time that pro­duc­tion had moved from 1 mil­lion to 2 mil­lion fish per farm.”

So, larger than any other pro­ject, us­ing dif­fer­ent fish with new tech­nol­ogy on a larger scale.

With all due re­spect to Mayor Sy­nard, that’s new in sig­nif­i­cant ways.

We don’t even have to look fur­ther than the gov­ern­ment’s own state­ment about the en­vi­ron­men­tal as­sess­ment process: “When the po­ten­tial en­vi­ron­men­tal ef­fects of projects are of con­cern, the process gen­er­ates real ben­e­fits by pro­vid­ing for com­pre­hen­sive pro­ject plan­ning and de­sign, max­i­miz­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion, en­hanc­ing gov­ern­ment co-or­di­na­tion, ac­count­abil­ity and in­for­ma­tion ex­change, and fa­cil­i­tat­ing per­mit­ting and reg­u­la­tory ap­proval of projects.”

It’s very much a co-op­er­a­tive ven­ture; the gov­ern­ment, on be­half of New­found­lan­ders and Labrado­ri­ans, isn’t try­ing to stop the process, just to make sure it is en­vi­ron­men­tally rea­son­able. Ahead of time.

(One is­sue that mud­dy­ing th­ese wa­ters, of course, is that the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment strongly sup­ports this pro­ject, hav­ing com­mit­ted to own­ing up to $45 mil­lion in Grieg shares. Hardly a dis­in­ter­ested reg­u­la­tor.)

The act, prop­erly ap­plied, is merely do­ing what it is meant to do: fos­ter en­vi­ron­men­tally re­spon­si­ble devel­op­ment.

It’s bet­ter - and eas­ier - to pre­vent an en­vi­ron­men­tal mess than to try and clean it up later.

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