November 19, 2007

Nova Scotia should reject quarry, marine terminal project proposal, says joint panel

A joint panel reviewing an environmental impact statement (EIS) for the proposed Whites Point quarry and marine terminal project in Digby County, Nova Scotia has recommended that the provincial Minister of Environment and Labour reject the proposal.

Based on its examination of the EIS prepared by Bilcon, and taking into account oral and written submissions from the public, the panel concluded that Bilcon's plan to build, operate and eventually decommission a large basalt quarry, together with processing and ship loading facilities and a marine terminal at Whites Point, would likely cause significant environmental impacts and in the panel's view, cannot be justified in the circumstances.

The joint review panel's report further calls for a moratorium on new approvals for development along Nova Scotia's North Mountain, citing the special issues associated with coastal quarries. The panel says the provincial government should develop and implement a comprehensive coastal zone management policy, and should modify its regulations to require an environmental assessment of proposals for quarry projects of any size.

The proposal by Bilcon would see a major quarry development on a 152-hectare site on Nova Scotia's Digby Neck. It would extract and process approximately two million tonnes per year of aggregate for a period of 50 years, shipping the some 40,000 tonnes per week of material to New Jersey from a new marine terminal.

Analyzing the benefits and burdens associated with the project, the panel concluded that the latter substantially outweigh the former and that the development would not be in the public interest and would make little or no net contribution to sustainability.

The potential adverse environmental impacts are numerous and diverse, says the report. Among them are threats to species at risk such as birds, fish and marine mammals; wildlife displacements and loss of habitat; possible alteration or destruction of a coastal wetland; and uncompensated greenhouse gas emissions at a time when governments are seeking reductions.

Moreover, the panel's report notes that the community of Digby Neck and surrounding region have an exceptional commitment to sustainable economic development, as its based of tourism and fishing depend on a healthy environment. In this context, says the panel, a large industrial project like that proposed by Bilcon would not enhance the sustainability of the region.

The panel's report will be reviewed by the Nova Scotia and federal governments. The latter, with Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Transport Canada as the lead authorities, will prepare a response which will be submitted to the Governor in Council for approval, then made public.

Nova Scotia Environment and Labour Minister Mark Parent will subsequently render a decision on the proposal (pursuant to the Nova Scotia Environment Act) after considering the panel's conclusion and recommendations.

A summary of the joint panel's report may be viewed on the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency Web site, www.ceaa-acee.gc.ca. The full report is available on the Nova Scotia Environment and Labour Web site, www.gov.ns.ca/enla.

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