Project approval fails to consider environmental impact of proposed project
HALIFAX/ TRADITIONAL TERRITORY OF THE MI’KMAQ PEOPLE – Environmental groups are headed to court to challenge a flawed decision approving the proposed rerouting of Highway 316 in Nova Scotia. The highway realignment is an essential component of the proposed multi-billion-dollar Goldboro liquefied natural gas project that would release 3.7 megatonnes of greenhouse gas emissions annually, crippling the province’s ability to meet key climate targets.
Ecology Action Centre and the New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance (NBASGA), represented by Ecojustice, will appear at the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia. The groups say the Province unreasonably ignored their comments submitted during the assessment process of the project and improperly ducked its responsibility to consider the serious climate and other environmental impacts that will directly result from approving this project. Through this preliminary motion, the Province is attempting to prevent the case from going to a hearing which would see these issues determined by the Court.
Both the Province and Pieridae (the company proposing to build Goldboro LNG) have stated that the re-routing of Highway 316 around the Goldboro LNG site is essential to the Goldboro LNG Project.
Pieridae has asserted repeatedly that it “requires the realignment for the implementation of its proposed Goldboro LNG facility” and that the Goldboro LNG Project is “the reason behind the planned realignment.”
Despite this critical link, Nova Scotia Environment allowed a separate environmental assessment to be conducted for the Highway Project. This assessment, and ultimately the decision approving the project, did not consider the impact of future GHG emissions from the Goldboro LNG facility. The decision also failed to consider the impact of the Highway Project in terms of environmental and safety risks caused by the presence of abandoned gold mines in the area.
James Gunvaldsen Klaassen, Lawyer, Ecojustice said:
“Nova Scotia Environment is treating these as two distinct projects, despite both the provincial government and Pieridae acknowledging the highway realignment is an essential prerequisite to the Goldboro LNG project.”
“As Canada and the world confront the growing climate emergency, GHG emissions must be considered in the assessment of all infrastructure enabling the expansion or introduction of new fossil fuel projects.
“Nova Scotia’s government risks losing all climate credibility by approving this highway realignment and giving Pieridae a free-pass to build new fossil fuel infrastructure that would by itself destroy the province’s GHG reductions.”
Jim Emberger, Spokesperson, New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance, said:
“The effects of the climate emergency are becoming ever more severe, and worsening more quickly, as the just released climate report from the United Nations recounts in dire detail. It is more important than ever that governments, including Nova Scotia’s, realize that open and responsive government requires officials to not only publicly announce their decisions, but also to explain to the public how they reached those decisions. The public must be made fully aware of all the facts, as we make decisions that will affect our future and the planet’s.
“Our serious and informed questions and comments to the government about the Highway Realignment project in relation to the GHG emissions it enabled through the Goldboro LNG Project were available to the public to read. By not even addressing them in its decision, the government only added to the public’s distrust of government, and to the public’s cynicism about whether the government actually listens to its citizens.”
Gurprasad Gurumurthy, Energy Coordinator, Renewables and Electricity, Ecology Action Centre said:
“We’re at a point in time where we must not invest in fossil fuel-based infrastructure. The Goldboro LNG project would drive up greenhouse gas emissions in Nova Scotia and deepen the effects of the climate crisis and biodiversity loss. We must do whatever it takes to stop this project and all the closely interlinked aspects, including the realignment of Marine Drive/Highway 316.”
Pieridae Energy is proposing to build a multi-billion dollar liquified natural gas plant on Nova Scotia’s Eastern Shore known as Goldboro LNG. If built, the project would see the company bring natural gas from Alberta to Nova Scotia through thousands of kilometres of pipelines. The gas would then be liquified and stored at the Goldboro LNG plant before being shipped overseas to Germany and other overseas markets.
According to independent expert Dr. Larry Hughes, the Goldboro LNG plant would blow a hole through Nova Scotia’s emissions ceiling, projecting a greenhouse gas emissions increase of 3.7 megatonnes annually.
In late 2021, Nova Scotia introduced The Environmental Goals and Climate Change Reduction Act which set the strongest 2030 greenhouse gas emission reduction target in Canada, committing to reduce emissions to at least 53 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. Based on Pieridae’s initial emissions projections, this project will cause Nova Scotia to exceed this emissions cap by about one-third. For the same period and baseline, the federal government recently announced an increased target of 40-45 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. Both jurisdictions have expressed their commitment to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.
In 2021, Pieridae requested $1 billion in financial support from the federal government. On May 3, 2021, Ecojustice launched an advocacy campaign with a letter to then Minister of Environment and Climate Change Jonathan Wilkinson and other federal ministers asking them to reject the company’s request for financial assistance. More than 4,500 Canadians participated in the action. To date, the federal government has not committed any financial support to the project.
In May 2021, Ecojustice sent a letter on behalf of eight prominent environmental groups urging the federal Minister of the Environment to ensure that the Goldboro LNG project undergoes an up-to-date federal impact assessment. The groups include Ecology Action Centre, Nova Scotia Fracking Resource and Action Coalition, New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance, Sierra Club Canada Foundation, Council of Canadians, Environnement Vert Plus, Citizens’ Oil & Gas Council, and Greenpeace Canada. The groups’ mandates span Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, Alberta, and Canada-wide.
The Goldboro LNG project received a provincial environmental assessment and approval in 2014. The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (the precursor to the current Agency) decided in 2012 that a federal environmental review of the project was not warranted, relying instead on a previous federal assessment for a vastly different project on the same site from 2007. Environmental groups say the federal agency lacked the statutory power to initially waive an EA for the project and note key differences between the Goldboro LNG project and previous Keltic project. There have been significant advancements in climate science and commitments in recent years, which need to be considered under the IAA (Impact Assessment Act). Relying on a 14-year-old EA of a distinct, older project could not satisfy assessment requirements for the new project.
Ecojustice uses the power of the law to defend nature, combat climate change, and fight for a healthy environment. Its strategic, public interest lawsuits and advocacy lead to precedent-setting court decisions and law and policy that deliver lasting solutions to Canada’s most urgent environmental problems. As Canada’s largest environmental law charity, Ecojustice operates offices in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa, and Halifax.
The Ecology Action Centre is a member-based environmental charity in Miꞌkmaꞌki (Nova Scotia) taking leadership on critical issues ranging from biodiversity protection to climate change to environmental justice. EAC strives to catalyze change through policy advocacy, community development and acts as a watch-dog for the environment. It takes a holistic approach to the environment and our economy to create a just and sustainable society.
The New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance is comprised of both Anglophone and francophone groups from across the province, working closely with our Indigenous friends and allies to oppose unconventional oil and gas, and promote the move to a clean energy economy in order to address climate change.