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.
Government leaders appealed that decision and a judgment is pending. However, in the interim, the EIS went ahead.
Grieg NL could have taken at least three years to gather the required information, the federation noted.
“Disease outbreaks, fish escapes, and a lack of company accountability are ongoing problems with the existing salmon aquaculture industry in Newfoundland,” said Steve Sutton, ASF’s director of outreach and engagement.
Parsons told The Telegram Friday the federation has every right to appeal and it’s normal course of possible action for an opposing side.
“But I haven’t seen any of that so I can’t comment any further than to say they have every right to do that,” he said.