Proposed road for LNG project draws commenters for and against megaproject

·3 min read
The $10-billion LNG project would require a section of highway to be moved. (The Canadian Press - image credit)
The $10-billion LNG project would require a section of highway to be moved. (The Canadian Press - image credit)

The proposed road to a liquefied natural gas project on Nova Scotia's Eastern Shore is paved with conflicting opinions about whether the highway change — and the $10-billion development it is a part of — should even go ahead.

Pieridae Energy received environmental approval in 2014 to build a natural gas liquefaction plant at Goldboro, a tanker terminal, marine facilities and power plant.

For the project to proceed, the company needs to move a 3.5-kilometre section of Highway 316, a secondary highway that hugs the coastline. The proposed realignment would divert vehicles inland and around the proposed LNG facility.

Public submissions to the provincial government about moving the highway, also known as Marine Drive, are sharply divided.

Everyday people, a tourism group, an energy industry association, environmentalists and Indigenous groups have all made submissions to the Environment Department.

There were comments in support of the road project, saying the existing road is in need of improvement.

Pieridae Energy  needs to move a 3.5-kilometre section of Highway 316, a secondary highway that hugs the coastline.
Pieridae Energy needs to move a 3.5-kilometre section of Highway 316, a secondary highway that hugs the coastline.(Pieridae Energy)

A local tourism group said the project must ensure that a massive industrial site does not obstruct view planes, and that signage is provided to notify travellers that they're still on Marine Drive.

Others said a road would be a path to new jobs.

The Maritimes Energy Association, a trade group, said it supports the project because it will create approximately 3,500 jobs during construction and up to 200 permanent positions.

"This project will bring significant investment to Nova Scotia and aid the province in its economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic," the association said, adding that the highway realignment would increase public safety.

One commenter from Antigonish said the work "needs to happen" in Nova Scotia, especially one with "so many positive spinoffs."

Another person from Quebec said they know the area well and do not see an issue with moving the highway.

"Please do not let this project die. Nova Scotia needs good paying jobs," they said.

Some Indigenous groups, however, slammed Pieridae for a lack of consultation.

The Native Council of Nova Scotia said its offer to meet virtually with Pieridae was "brusquely denied, and we are cavalierly told to seek out information regarding the project from a third party."

The council raised several questions in its written submission, including plans for the water course, the blue felt lichen and Atlantic salmon in the area, and whether the wetland alteration plan had been approved.

Pieridae is proposing to liquefy natural gas from the Maritimes and Northeast Pipeline at a plant to be built in Goldboro, Guysborough County, and ship it by sea.
Pieridae is proposing to liquefy natural gas from the Maritimes and Northeast Pipeline at a plant to be built in Goldboro, Guysborough County, and ship it by sea.(Pieridae Energy)

The Maritime Aboriginal People's Council, an intergovernmental leaders group, pointed out the highway realignment project would be on traditional ancestral homeland. It also criticized Pieridae's failure to meet with the Native Council of Nova Scotia.

In a joint submission, the Ecology Action Centre, the New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance and the Sierra Club Foundation recommended scrapping the project.

They said approving the project would increase Nova Scotia's greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, instead of cutting them. The submission also raised concerns about the presence of old gold mine shafts, and the safety and contamination risks they pose.

Pierdae's proposal is to build the new six-kilometre road, and upon completion, ownership and maintenance would be the responsibility of the province.

The company has said it does not anticipate any major adverse environmental effects from the road project, and expects to start construction this fall.

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