The Newfoundland government has endorsed Ottawa’s request that provinces ban bulk-exports of fresh water, but the feds will have to enforce the ban themselves, says the province’s environment minister.
Oliver Langdon, Newfoundland’s environment minister, says it will be up to the federal government to prevent existing proposals from going ahead.
“It is our opinion that the federal government is the only government which can assess whether this project creates a precedent which could impact on Canada’s sovereign right to control its resources,” Langdon said.
A Newfoundland company called the McCurdy Group has already looked into exporting water from Gisborne Lake in southeastern Newfoundland.
Langdon says the company’s plan to sell the water of Gisborne Lake meets all of the province’s environmental standards. But the environment minister says the development won’t go ahead until Ottawa deals with the national trade implications the project might have.
He says the province’s decision to sign the permanent national ban gives the project a yellow light.
“This decision effectively prohibits the Gisborne Lake project from proceeding without federal consent,” he says.
The McCurdy group started the Gisborne Lake project three years before Ottawa called for the export ban. Langdon says it isn’t fair to change the rules on the company now.
Last week Premier Brian Tobin hinted that the federal government should compensate the company if it stops the development. Langdon echoed the premier, saying the province’s work is done.
“I want to let you know that the province has taken its reponsibilities in this matter seriously and our role is now complete,” he said at Friday’s announcement of Newfoundland’s signature.
Langdon’s announcement is a blow to Ottawa’s attempts to stop any bulk-export of water. The federal government hoped the provinces would not only sign on to the ban but also stop developments from going ahead.
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Oct 1, Govt of Newfoundland Press Release:
Minister Langdon said the national debate on bulk water export has been intense. “The debate has been highlighted in this province because of a proposed project to export water in bulk from Gisborne Lake.”
“We must apply the existing rules and regulatory process fairly to the Gisborne Lake project and its proponent, the McCurdy Group,” explained the minister. “This project was registered under the provincial EA process three years ago, consistent with the policies of the day, and well before the call for a national moratorium was made by the federal government in February of this year.”
“Following thorough assessment, the province has concluded it must conditionally discharge the Gisborne Lake project from the provincial environmental review process, but this does not mean project approval,” said Minister Langdon.
While the provincial environmental review has not identified any technical or environmental grounds to prohibit the project, Minister Langdon said the Gisborne Lake project cannot be considered simply on a stand alone basis.
“This government has significant questions about the implications of the project on Canada’s trade and national environmental policies. These are federal responsibilities that can’t be dealt with under the provincial review process.”
Minister Langdon has written to the federal Minister of Environment calling on the federal government to comprehensively address the trade and national policy impacts of this project as part of its own ongoing review of the Gisborne Lake project.
“This government believes that it is the federal government’s responsibility to decisively assess the implications of the Gisborne Lake project from a national perspective,” said the minister. “The issues which are most pressing relate to federal responsibilities like trade, and national and international environmental issues like global water shortages and climate change. It is our opinion that the federal government is the only government which can assess whether this project creates a precedent which could impact on Canada’s sovereign right to control its resources.”
Minister Langdon said government’s decision effectively prohibits the Gisborne Lake project from proceeding without federal consent.