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Government will review Supreme Court order on $250M Placentia Bay project

CBC NEWS - Newfoundland

Government will review Supreme Court order on $250M Placentia Bay project: minister

Judge rules environment minister 'lacked jurisdiction' to release project without full environmental assessmen

By Sarah Smellie, CBC News Posted: Jul 21, 2017 4:41 PM NT

Environment Minister Eddie Joyce says a Supreme Court decision ordering an environmental impact statement will be reviewed by the Department of Justice and Public Safety.

The Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador on Thursday overturned the provincial government's decision to release a quarter-billion dollar salmon farming project in Placentia Bay from further environmental assessment.

Justice Gillian Butler ruled on July 20 that Perry Trimper, then the environment and climate change minister, "lacked jurisdiction" to release the project from a full environmental assessment, and that an environmental impact statement had to be completed.

"Of course, if there is no issue with it from the Department of Justice and Public Safety, we have to follow the court order, there's no doubt about that, but it is being reviewed," said Joyce.

Joyce says it's standard practice for the Department of Justice and Public Safety to review decisions like these.

Included in the court documents is the recommendation submitted to Trimper by Eric Watton, an environmental scientist from the Department of Environment and Municipal Affairs, that the project undergo a complete environmental impact statement.

The impact statement would have required an ecosystem and population study of the wild salmon in Placentia Bay, as well as a contingency plan and extensive public consultation.

Watton's recommendations include a list of cons associated with an impact statement. They include project delays, possible court challenges from developer Grieg NL, and the possibility that Grieg would pull the project out of the province and set up shop somewhere else.

Releasing the project from further environmental assessment was not recommended.

Joyce said he couldn't comment on why the minister at the time didn't follow Watton's recommendations.

"I can't comment on it because I wasn't in the room when the decision was made," he said.

Would be largest salmon-farming operation in Canada

The $250-million project would be the largest salmon-farming operation in Canada and is expected to bring  jobs to the Placentia Bay area.

"You're looking at somewhere in the vicinity of 325 direct and 235 indirect person-years of employment down there," said Joyce.

He says the provincial government is looking at reviewing the entire environmental assessment process.

"With the way forward that we have, we're reviewing the environmental assessment process, the complete process of how we move forward with the Environmental Protection Act and associated with the regulations, so this is part of the way forward also," he said.

With files from Mark Quin and the St. John's Morning Show

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/newfoundland-labrador/joyce-says-court-ruling-salmon-farm-under-review-1.4215749