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Northern Pulp seeks judicial review of N.S. environment minister's ruling

NOVA SCOTIA (From news reports) -- Northern Pulp is asking for a judicial review of the Nova Scotia environment minister's decision to require an environmental assessment report for the company's proposed effluent facility.

In documents filed Thursday in Nova Scotia Supreme Court in Halifax, the company, which filed the application along with representatives of the forestry industry and the union representing mill workers, said it wants Environment Minister Gordon Wilson's ruling last month to be quashed and for costs to be awarded.

In December, Wilson said the company failed to provide sufficient information about its proposal in order for him to make a decision on the application. In providing his ruling, Wilson called for an environmental assessment report to be completed if the company wanted to continue with the process.

Later that week, Premier Stephen McNeil rejected a request from the company to extend the deadline in the Boat Harbour Act, which calls for the company's effluent treatment facility to close at the end of this month. Without a place to send and treat its effluent, the mill cannot operate.

In court documents, said company says it's seeking the review based on the following grounds:

The minister erred in law and in fact and acted unreasonably in preparing and rendering the decision.

The minister failed to properly interpret and apply certain provisions of the Environment Act and environmental assessment regulations.

The minister based his decision "on irrelevant and/or improper factors and considerations."

The minister breached the company's procedural fairness entitlements

Anything else "as may appear prior to the hearing of this matter."

The company is in the midst of an orderly shutdown at the Pictou County location, winterizing the mill so it can remain dormant while Northern Pulp works on the environmental assessment report, a process that could take as long as two years.

In the meantime, workers at the company are being laid off and the forestry industry as a whole is facing much uncertainty.

In a news release Thursday, Brian Baarda, CEO of Northern Pulp parent company Paper Excellence, said he and the other applicants are hoping the review "will bring transparency to the decision-making process."

"We're hoping that through this judicial review, Northern Pulp will be provided with clarity about the process and elements required in order to be successful in the [environmental assessment] process that we'll be embarking on later this year." he said.

"We believe all of the necessary ingredients for a successful pulp industry are here in Nova Scotia including access to fibre, deep sea ports, a talented labour pool and a modern, competitive pulp mill."

As the mill has prepared to shut down, a transition team formed by the provincial government has been meeting weekly and determining what to do with a $50-million assistance fund in an effort to transition the industry to a future without Northern Pulp.

Money so far has been allocated for retraining and silviculture work. An announcement from the transition team is expected Friday about a short-term financial support program for some people connected to the forestry industry.


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