Environment Minister Eddie Joyce says the merits of a proposed composting facility — and not political pressure — will determine if the large-scale Whitbourne-area project gets the green light.
"This will be approved or rejected on the information that's found. This will not be done for any political expediency," said Joyce.
"I would never, ever put any people from the Whitbourne area in that position."
Joyce responded on CBC Radio's St. John's Morning Show to Whitbourne Mayor Hilda Whelan, who mused that the lack of public government opposition to the facility — which will compost carcasses, manure and fish offal — is because it would also process waste from Grieg N.L's Placentia Bay $250-million aquaculture project.
"I don't want to contradict the mayor, but I have never had one comment from any member in our government, or the opposition, that would say, 'We should do this because of Grieg.' Not one," Joyce said Monday.
"Wherever the mayor is getting her information, she's welcome to share that."
Environmental review underway
Whelan has voiced a number of concerns about the Metro Environmental Services proposal, which is currently undergoing an environmental review.
Whelan has flagged potential odours, as well as tasking nearby volunteer fire departments with putting out any blazes that occur at the site.
"The gloves are off … You got a better chance to get this in the centre of St. John's than you have that close to Whitbourne," she said last Wednesday.
In turn, the company has accused Whelan of "misinforming the public" on numerous issues when it comes to the indoor facility, insisting the risk of fire is low and there will be no smell associated with composting.
Public can weigh in, too
Joyce said the environmental review will help sort out those outstanding issues.
"From my understanding … [Metro Environmental Services Inc.] picked this area for a reason," Joyce said, adding the proponents are the best ones to make their own case.
"They can do it some other place, but it is strategically placed for what they need?"
Joyce said the government "welcomes they mayor's comments" — along with anyone else that wants to weigh in before the May 18 deadline.
"All this information will be part of the whole assessment … This will be done on the merits [of the proposal]."