There is a way for­ward for Grieg

The Southern Gazette - - EDITORIAL - Bill Tay­lor, pres­i­dent At­lantic Salmon Fed­er­a­tion

Since the New­found­land and Labrador Supreme Court ruled the Pla­cen­tia Bay aqua­cul­ture project must com­plete an en­vi­ron­men­tal impact state­ment, govern­ment and in­dus­try rep­re­sen­ta­tives have re­peated that they’re de­ter­mined to forge ahead with the de­vel­op­ment, as though the judge some­how can­celled it.

Mem­bers of cab­i­net have been care­ful to say they re­spect the court’s de­ci­sion, and have ex­pressed will­ing­ness to work with all sides, but then the other shoe drops.

Pre­mier Dwight Ball told NTV his govern­ment was wait­ing for ad­vice from Jus­tice Depart­ment lawyers and, “Once we ex­plore all those op­tions a de­ci­sion will be made on how we con­tinue to ad­vance this project.” Last week En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Ed­die Joyce told VOCM’S “Open Line” show, “we have to find a way to make this work.”

Grieg Seafood chair­man Per Grieg told the South­ern Gazette re­cently he “can­not be­lieve… this rul­ing that tem­po­rar­ily has stopped a lit­tle bit of the progress in the project will stand.”

No one has plainly said they will fol­low the judge’s or­der and com­plete an en­vi­ron­men­tal impact state­ment.

There ap­pears to be no recog­ni­tion that Judge Gillian But­ler’s rul­ing is a sen­si­ble, rea­son­able com­pro­mise. It pro­vides a path to ap­proval for the com­pany, the abil­ity to meet eco­nomic and job tar­gets for the govern­ment, and en­sures wild salmon, other na­tive species and the en­vi­ron­ment get due con­sid­er­a­tion.

Re­sis­tance to the process raises ques­tions about the open net-pen salmon aqua­cul­ture in­dus­try. Can it pass en­vi­ron­men­tal as­sess­ment? Is that why salmon aqua­cul­ture has been ex­empt from the rules that ap­ply to other devel­op­ments in New­found­land?

The fact is en­vi­ron­men­tal as­sess­ment is a step that usu­ally leads to ap­proval. Go­ing back to 2006 in New­found­land and Labrador, 14 projects have been re­quired to pre­pare an en­vi­ron­men­tal impact state­ment. One was with­drawn, six have been ap­proved, and seven as­sess­ments are in progress, in­clud­ing three soft-shell clam aqua­cul­ture projects, a golf course, and an ac­cess road.

Hav­ing the Pla­cen­tia Bay project go through an en­vi­ron­men­tal as­sess­ment will give the pub­lic a win­dow on what’s planned. It will force the com­pany to prove their claims like “es­cape proof” nets and 100 per cent ster­ile fish. It will lead to mon­i­tor­ing and mit­i­ga­tion pro­grams where there is a risk. A bet­ter project will come out the other side.

En­vi­ron­men­tal as­sess­ment of the Pla­cen­tia Bay salmon aqua­cul­ture project will also give the pub­lic some as­sur­ance the ven­ture will not fail or cause un­ac­cept­able en­vi­ron­men­tal dam­age.

Con­sider it due dili­gence, espe­cially as New­found­lan­ders are be­ing asked by the com­pany to con­trib­ute $45 mil­lion in tax­pay­ers’ dol­lars to the de­vel­op­ment. As Judge But­ler notes in her de­ci­sion, quoting the New­found­land Court of Ap­peal, en­vi­ron­men­tal as­sess­ment is “an in­te­gral part of eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment.”

Grieg says they’ve al­ready com­pleted an en­vi­ron­men­tal as­sess­ment. In fact, the re­view which led to ap­proval was based pri­mar­ily on a de­scrip­tion pro­vided by the com­pany, which the govern­ment sci­en­tist han­dling the file said, “did not pro­vide suf­fi­cient in­for­ma­tion to as­sist in pre­dict­ing ef­fects prior to a min­is­ter’s de­ci­sion.”

The At­lantic Salmon Fed­er­a­tion rec­og­nizes that the salmon aqua­cul­ture in­dus­try is es­tab­lished in New­found­land and pro­vides jobs in ru­ral ar­eas. Putting the Pla­cen­tia Bay project through the nor­mal de­vel­op­ment process could set a new stan­dard for salmon aqua­cul­ture in Canada, mak­ing the prov­ince a leader in ad­dress­ing the prob­lems of open net-pens.

A govern­ment ap­peal, or at­tempt to change the leg­is­la­tion, will cause more de­lays and cost the pub­lic more. If cab­i­net’s goal is to see this project pro­ceed, they should be­gin the en­vi­ron­men­tal as­sess­ment process.

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