Province announces major financial investment in Placentia Bay aquaculture project
The recent decision by Newfoundland and Labrador Municipal Affairs and Environment Minister Andrew Parsons to accept Grieg NL’s environmental impact statement (EIS) for the Placentia Bay Aquaculture project sets a worrying precedent for environmental assessment in Canada, says the Atlantic Salmon Federation (ASF).
As a result of the release decision, the federation said in a news release it will prepare an appeal in accordance with Newfoundland and Labrador’s Environmental Protection Act, asking Parsons to reconsider his decision.
The department announced Parsons’ decision in an environmental assessment bulletin issued on Sept. 6.
The bulletin identified 15 terms and conditions that Grieg must abide by for the approval.
The federation said explicit guidelines for the company’s EIS, including the need to gather baseline data on wild species in Placentia Bay, remain incomplete.
ASF said it documented these shortcomings in detailed comments submitted ahead of Parsons’ decision, asking that the EIS be returned to Grieg for additional work.
“The release of this project is not surprising given the conflict of interest that arises from the provincial government acting as regulator, decision maker, and now an investor in Grieg itself,” said ASF president Bill Taylor. “The recent announcement that government will buy shares in the company is a clear signal that this review has not been impartial.”
The memorandum of understanding between Grieg NL and Newfoundland and Labrador gives the company a monopoly on salmon aquaculture in Placentia Bay, ASF said in a news release.
The federation initiated a judicial review in October 2016, following the Newfoundland and Labrador government’s first attempt to release the Placentia Bay aquaculture project from environmental assessment. A provincial Supreme Court judge sided with ASF. A full-scale EIS was then ordered.
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Premier Dwight Ball was on hand at a kick-off event for Grieg NL in Marystown Friday, Sept. 14. The Premier announced a financial commitment to the project in the form of a $30 million repayable load.
Ball told The Southern Gazette the financial assistance is contingent on a number of conditions.
“What we’ve been able to do over the last number of years in this negotiation is to put some stringent conditions in place,” Ball said. “An example, what we’re talking about here today is $30 million in provincial money over a seven-year period, and what is key in all of this is it’s performance based, it’s attached to jobs, it’s attached to investment.
“So, you really don’t get the money until you send the money, or until you create jobs in this area, so that’s the big difference right now, they’ll be no money advanced until you see the economic benefit. There are very tangible benefits to the province and to this area.”
Ball added that the government will continue to monitor the project to ensure the agreed conditions are met.
“How much economic activity is generated from this project, how many jobs have you produced, and are you meeting the environmental conditions that are attached to this release,” he noted regarding areas that will be monitored.
When asked his thoughts on a possible appeal of the province’s decision to release the project from the environmental assessment process, as brought up by the Atlantic Salmon Federation, the Premier said government anticipated the move.
“This is a group that had the opportunity to actually participate in public consultations leading into this decision, and they did that, so it’s not unusual … the analysis has been done, the regulations have been put in place — we firmly believe and the department themselves agreed that this was ready for release,” he said.
In a release issued on Sept. 13, by the Atlantic Salmon Federation, the organization’s president, Bill Taylor, accused the provincial government of being in a conflict.
Ball said there was no conflict on behalf of the government.
“This process is completely independent, it’s been through a number of public consultations, a number of reviews of other jurisdictions and the department at the time made the decision to release this project,” he said.
On top of the provincial investment, the federal government will contribute a repayable investment of $10 million through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.
Thomas Grieg, owner of Grieg NL, said the federal and provincial investment puts the company’s total investment into the project at $210 million.
“Our financers and investors see this equity investment as a sign of confidence in the project,” said Grieg.
He added the company appreciates government’s aggressive approach to cultivate investment in aquaculture and ensuring the creation of employment and business opportunities in Placentia Bay.
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Premier Dwight Ball announced Friday a financial commitment to the Placentia Bay aquaculture project.