Group Calls for Probe of Nova Scotia Biomass Logging

[The forest footprint for a biomass incinerator is massive. Will be interesting to see if any probe is done in regards to this facility. -Ed.]

-  by Erin Pottie, June 27, 2014, Cape Breton Bureau

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"223","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","style":"width: 333px; height: 187px; margin: 3px 10px; float: left;","title":"Photo: CBC"}}]]A Cape Breton environmental group is calling for an emergency review of harvesting practices at Nova Scotia Power’s biomass plant in Point Tupper.

On Friday, the Margaree Environmental Association issued a letter to Premier Stephen McNeil requesting a delay in harvesting to allow the province to examine the plant’s wood supply.

Association co-chair Neal Livingston said the plant has shown itself to be a “voracious” consumer of wood fibre.

Not only is quality material being directed to the plant, there is also too much forest resource being cut, he added.

“You basically kinda have a monster there and it wants to be fed,” Livingston said. “I think that rather than get it wrong and have it continue to be a bigger and bigger problem, it’s a really good time to take a look at what’s going on here.”

NSP has said up to 650,000 tonnes of wood waste will be needed to run the plant per year.

The 60-megawatt power generating station, located in Richmond County, is part of Nova Scotia’s plan to source 25 per cent of the province’s electricity from renewable sources by 2020.

But in recent months, business owners who rely on the forest for a living have told The Chronicle Herald that high-quality hardwoods are making their way into the biomass plant.

Peter Christiano, owner of a fine-flooring company in Middle River, Victoria County, said the need for high-volume, low-quality fuel is also taking away any incentive woodlot owners and contractors had to harvest these types of higher-quality wood.

“When you see those people starting not being able to get wood supply and considering closing down their businesses, there’s a pretty clear indication there’s a problem,” Livingston said.

Adding to Livingston’s concerns are a recent round of clear-cutting, including an area along Highway 125, near North Sydney.

On Friday, NSP spokeswoman Neera Ritcey denied that quality hardwoods are winding up that the plant.

“We require our suppliers to follow strict conditions on the biomass they supply for use at the plant,” Ritcey said in an email. “We have checks and balances in place to ensure rules are followed.”