Sierra Club of Canada: 1996 Rio Report Card

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Nova Scotia



1993 Grade: -

1994 Grade: F

1995 Grade: D

1996 Grade: B-

Nova Scotia has performed extremely well this year in the category of protected areas. Following through on the announcement of candidate sites in 1993, which were protected with an interim development moratorium, the province set aside 31 sites for protected status. This brings to 8 per cent the area of Nova Scotia's total land base which has received protection, and fully 20 per cent of the provincial Crown land. However, as 75 per cent of the province's land area is privately owned, more will need to be done to extend protection to other critically threatened ecosystems, and to complete the target of at least 12 per cent of representative ecosystems.

Of particular concern was the failure to include Kluscap Mountain as a protected area. The mountain, known to non-aboriginals as "Kelly's Mountain", is a sacred area to the Mi'Kmaq people. The traditional grand chief, and many other Mi'Kmaq chiefs, urged the government to act to protect the mountain. Kluscap Mountain holds a sacred cave, within which their prophet, Kluscap, rests. Proposals to dredge the channel below Kluscap Mountain also concern local fishers and environmentalists.

The province has done nothing about the lack of endangered species legislation, although neither has it presented obstacles to strong federal legislation.

However, once we move away from protected areas and into industrial forest practice, it is clear that biodiversity is at risk. Clear-cutting is still the predominant harvest method. Poor road building practices still damage fish habitat. Herbicide and insecticide spraying are still cause for concern. As well, serious liquidation cuts are increasing on private lands. Particularly biodiversity-rich mixed hardwood forests in Cumberland County are being clear-cut to sell the pulp at high prices into New Brunswick and even through to Maine.

As well, the provincial moratorium on uranium exploration, declared in 1984, expired on January 1, 1995. Despite the fact that Premier John Savage had testified in the provincial uranium inquiry that as a medical doctor he opposed uranium development in the province, there has been no official extension of the ban, although it continues de facto. Uranium mining would be disastrous for biodiversity and would present a threat to human health as well.

The provincial management of the inland fishery has also brought the gasperaux fishery, once unbelievably abundant, to the point of collapse.

Due to the less than satisfactory performance in other aspects of biodiversity protection, what had been an "A" for protected areas in World Wildlife Fund's Endangered Spaces Report Card is reduced to a B- in Sierra Club's grading process.


Nova Scotia - Toxic Chemicals/ Pollution

1993 Grade: -

1994 Grade: F

1995 Grade: -

1996 Grade: F

The decision of the provincial government to opt, without any public consultation or environmental review, for a burial plan for the Sydney Tar Ponds, calls for a reprise of the failing mark the province received two years ago when they failed to appreciate the potential human health consequences of PCB fire at a transformer station.

The Sydney Tar Ponds is a huge toxic nightmare. It is tidal estuary, not enclosed, and open to the sea. It is surrounded by residential areas. And it contains more than 35 times the amount of toxics that led to the evacuation of Love Canal. The Tar Ponds contain 700,000 tons of toxic sludge, with a significant amount of PAH contamination, plus at least 45,000 tons of PCBs. The Sydney area has a cancer rate twice the national average.

The federal and provincial governments approved funds for a clean-up plan in 1986. Neither level of government agreed to a public environmental assessment process. Despite reservations from Sydney residents that incineration was a potentially dangerous option, an incinerator was built at a cost of roughly $60 million.

In January, 1996, the provincial government announced that the incinerator did not work. Toxic sludge from the tidal flats was too solid to move through the pipes. The Provincial Minister of Supply and Services came to Sydney, and with no prior consultation with citizen groups, or even local elected officials, announced that the new plan was to dig out the PCB's, and then bury the Tar Ponds with old slag from the steel mill. There was no environmental assessment of the proposal, but a $20-million contract was let to two engineering firms.

Had there been an environmental assessment, with a full panel review ten years ago, problems with the incinerator plan might have come to light before $60 million and 10 years was wasted with uncalculated impacts on the lives of families in the area.

Similarly, the Nova Scotia government under former Premier John Buchanan exempted a coal fired power plant, Point Aconi, from either environmental assessment, or review by the Public Utilities Board, which exists to ensure decisions are economically sound. Currently, the two developers of Point Aconi are suing each other. After destroying one of the most scenic vistas in North America and ruining ground water supplies for area residents, the Point Aconi plant does not even work.

Nova Scotia is busy making the case for the value of adequate environmental assessment by ignoring even minimal requirements for public participation and advance review. It is currently anticipated that the Nova Scotia government will take up to a year before registering the Tar Ponds clean-up plan with the federal environmental assessment agency. It is likely that the burial plan will be scrapped. Ultimately, there will be a federal/provincial environmental assessment -- and given public concern on this issue, it must be a public panel review. But the costs to the taxpayer, the environment and public health by taking short cuts be overstated.


Nova Scotia - Climate Change

1993Grade: n/a

1994 Grade: F

1995 Grade: D+

1996 Grade: D-

Carbon dioxide emissions (kilotonnes)
1990: 16,875
1994: 16,981
Increase: 0.62%

Nova Scotia's grade falls this year for the same reason as most provinces - its plan has no substance and it has failed to control transportation emissions.

Coal-fired and oil-fired electricity generation continues to rule in Nova Scotia with emissions increasing 4.0 per cent between 1990 and 1994. Emissions from electricity generation will continue to increase as Nova Scotia Power is marketing electricity for home heating - the least efficient way possible to heat one's home. Nova Scotia Power also gets a failing grade for producing a children's comic book featuring "Louie the lightening bug's power tour: Seeing how electricity is made in a Nova Scotia power generating station". Here's a taste of the propaganda being fed to Nova Scotia children:

On emissions, the comic books says:

"At Nova Scotia Power, while emissions are linked to customer demand (it's your own fault), they are always closely monitored! Further environmental protection is assured with equipment such as electrostatic precipitators, mechanical collectors, and new technologies which keep tight control of emissions! The stacks are built high enough to carry emissions safely away from local areas."

Nowhere does the publication talk about environmental impacts like acid rain or climate change, or about renewable energy like wind or solar. Credit is deserved for profiling the Bay of Fundy tidal generation station, billed as the first and only plant of its kind in North America.

A consortium of Mobil and Westcoast Energy Inc. is looking at developing the Sable Island offshore natural gas field, bringing gas onshore for export to the United States. While project details still are sketchy and no contract has yet been signed, (royalty arrangements have recently been negotiated), it appears likely that the natural gas exports will not displace coal or oil consumption in the U.S. Instead it is likely to increase overall energy consumption, and greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. This outcome would be particularly true if the gas were to replace nuclear production in Maine.

The gas may benefit Nova Scotia by giving it access to lower carbon fuel for some electricity generation which now uses coal or oil, but it is unlikely that the pipeline infrastructure needed to provide natural gas for home heating would be cost effective. In fact, given current price projections, the project may not even be economic without government support.

Transportation emissions are up 91 kilotonnes over 1990 and are likely to increase as a result of highway expansion - privatized or otherwise.

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Copyright 1996 Sierra Club of Canada