Provincial regulators release projects from environmental assessment
Gilbert Bennett (right), vice-president of Nalcor's Lower Churchill project explains the proposed transmission link at an open house in Deer Lake. - Photo by Katherine Hudson/The Western Star
The provincial Department of Environment has given the green light to the power infrastructure Nalcor Energy plans to build and use to transmit energy from the Churchill River to Newfoundland and Nova Scotia.
The provincial Department of Environment and Conservation has released both the Maritime Link and Labrador-Island Link from further environmental assessment.
The Maritime Link is a project of Emera and is still under review by energy regulators with the Utilities and Review Board in Nova Scotia. Their findings on the project are due in July.
While the Maritime Link was given the OK by the environmental regulator in Newfoundland and Labrador, the province cautioned the approval is entirely dependent on the submission and acceptance by government of key documents including: a project benefits agreement and a gender equity and diversity plan.
“The commitments and expectations finalized in these two documents will supersede all prior commitments, agreements or approvals related to these subject matters,” reads the statement issued today by government.
Emera must also put have Environmental Effects Monitoring Plans approved before construction starts. An Environmental Protection Plan — including details on everything from new access roads and laydown areas to protocols for protecting the pine marten populations while clearing trees — is also needed.
A “Species at Risk Project Impacts Mitigation and Monitoring Plan” also has to be submitted.
"This is the result of more than two years of study and assessment, extensive engagement with Mi'kmaq communities in N.S. and N.L., as well as consultation with landowners, fish harvesters, local businesses and other stakeholders," said Rick Janega, president of Emera Newfoundland and Labrador in a statement.
The regulatory review of the Maritime Link was a joint, 16-week review, noted the Government of Nova Scotia, in a separate statement. That government has also released the Maritime Link from further assessment.
"The department's study concluded that there will be little impact on wildlife, vegetation and recreational activities because much of the infrastructure already exists or can be built on existing corridors," said Nova Scotia Environment Minister Sterling Belliveau in the release.
The government has asked for a fisheries advisory committee to be established.
The Labrador-Island Link, meanwhile, includes underwater power lines allowing for power transmission from Labrador to the island of Newfoundland. It also includes about 1,100 kilometers of transmission infrastructure tracking through Newfoundland’s interior — giving a new backbone to the province’s power infrastructure.
In a statement, Nalcor Energy vice-president and project lead Gilbert Bennett said the Crown corporation is reviewing the province’s directions in relation to the project, but is ready to move forward on final planning for construction of the subsea connection and new transmission line.
“This is a significant step forward for the Lower Churchill Project,” Bennett said.
“We’re pleased that the provincial government has accepted the analysis and mitigation measures provided for the transmission project, and validated years of research and consultation completed throughout the environmental assessment process. We will incorporate the conditions required as part of the project’s release as we move forward.”
As The Telegram reported in a recent update, the Labrador-Island Link review by provincial government staff included evaluation of information in Nalcor’s environmental impact statement and more than 20 additional component studies.
The project was registered in February 2009 and the assessment team went back to Nalcor at several points as paperwork was submitted, requesting further information.
The Labrador-Island Link project was released with the stipulation Nalcor adhere to monitoring plans submitted.
Also required are: a Diversity Plan, Environmental Protection Plans, Environmental Effects Monitoring Plans, a Species at Risk Project Impacts Mitigation and Monitoring Plan and Access Decommissioning Plan- for areas where temporary access roads are being established.
The Department of Environment has stipulated Nalcor Energy pay to create two, full-time jobs for monitoring environmental data. The new staff will be employed by the provincial Department of Environment.
“One position will be for the duration of the construction of the (project) — approximately four years — and the second will be for the duration of drilling and cable installation activities at the Shoal Cove, Newfoundland, cable landing site in the Strait of Belle Isle — approximately one year,” the province stated in its release.
Nalcor has been ordered to consult with outfitters to develop a monitoring plan to watch potential impacts on the outfitting industry.
“Should direct impacts be identified, the proponent shall work with the affected outfitters and the Newfoundland and Labrador Outfitters Association to develop reasonable compensation provisions,” the provincial government has stated.
NOTE: This story was updated at 3:24 p.m. Friday, June 21, to include a statement from the president of Emera Newfoundland and Labrador.