By Leo Glavine
One of North America’s most noted environmental activists is focusing attention on environmental and public health concerns related to a Pictou County pulp mill. She has been receiving a high number of contacts from residents in the county who are concerned that the excessive rate of cancer and respiratory illness in their area. could be attributed to environmental contamination caused by the emissions from Northern Pulp in Abercrombie.
If this were the only environmental issue that the current government has sidestepped we could agree with Ralph Surette’s recent comment in the Chronicle Herald: “the most alienated party members are apparently back thanks to moves on the environmental front.”
Buying forest land to reach 13 per cent protected land by 2015 is very positive, but should not be the sole measure of a good environmental report card. Speaking of protected wilderness areas such as the Cobequid Game Sanctuary, there is clear-cutting taking place there as you read this article. It is unfortunate that wilderness designated areas can have clear cutting. No wonder the mainland moose is having a difficult time recovering: no habitat means no sustainable moose population.
There are three forestry practices that have proceeded unabated for the past 1,543 days. Until a pre-election announcement “whole tree harvesting” has been permitted in our province. It is the most destructive practice that is permitted in modern forestry. The moonscape left behind leaves both a visual and ecological scar that will take several generations to restore soil fertility.
The goal of reducing clear cutting by 50 per cent of the total harvest remains as elusive today as when government made that promise about four years ago. What should have been simple and clear - a working definition of what constitutes a clear cut - has become an enormous blemish for a party that wanted to achieve balance and sustainability in forest resource management. For the record, there are only a few operations doing selected cutting and planning for viable forestry, with an annual allowable cut. Fly over western Nova Scotia and you will feel ill at what has and is taking place. A satellite profile of the forest inventory that is suitable for harvest is more frightening than the fly-over some of you have experienced. Then there is the practice of “chip and ship” that sends our valuable fibre off to Europe for biomass fuel. This is not a value-added practice that will transform the planning, managing and wise resource use that can be beneficial for a stronger rural economy. We can take policy shaping and emerging country like Costa Rica, where only value-added forest products leave the country.
Then there are mercury emissions, the waste and disease associated with open pen salmon farming, the use of pet coke by NSP and fracking waste that was permitted to be “treated” in Debert.
In 2010 the NDP government lowered mercury emission standards for NSP making our province the only one in Canada not to meet the emission targets. In 2012, Liberty Consulting Group revealed a fuel adjustment audit that the government’s change in relaxing mercury regulations allows NSP to use lower quality coal. The decreased efficiency at Lingan ultimately resulted in customers paying $3.6 million more than they should have - a clear example of the premier’s decision impacting ratepayers and the electricity market place.
Then there is pet coke that contains extremely high levels of heavy metals, unscrubbed in any of the NSP plants. This byproduct of the oil industry is used as inexpensive fuel in countries like China, India and Mexico where there are relatively loose emission controls. This government is continuing to help NSP use the dirtiest fuel from a Detroit stockpile that can’t be used in most US states
While Erin Brockovich will focus on the mill in Pictou County and its Boat Harbour treatment ponds, I think she should expand her investigation. Being responsible for residents’ health or addressing climate change is apparently of little concern for NSP but for government, our health and that of the natural world it should have been a high priority for the past 1,543 days.