We got smoke here. Will there be fire?

Premier Stephen McNeil’s cabinet has stealthily changed the environmental assessment regulations to make it easier to build a waste-to-energy incinerator, a.k.a. burning garbage to generate energy.

Anyone opposed to one of these projects now has less time to react. Proponents of them–now designated for Class 1 environmental assessment, down from Class 2–have to post notice in a local and provincial newspaper within seven days of registering it with Nova Scotia Environment. The public has 30 days to comment after the registration, leaving 23 days if the proponent waits the full seven to publish the notice. That is not enough time to respond to what will inevitably be a complex proposal. In gov-speak, this falls under the heading of “(reducing) unnecessary regulatory burden”. (See below)

Of course, the minister of environment can extend the comment period if she believes “blah, blah, blah”.

The net effect is

Waste to energy plant in Vienna

that if you don’t like waste-to-energy burners, you’d better read the papers regularly and be prepared to move fast.

If you take comfort in the  list of materials banned from incinerators, just remember you are reading this post because changing regulations is dead easy.

(Disclosure: Turpin Labs has an indirect  interest in this issue with respect to used tires.)

Just understanding the process set out in the revised regulations will take you a couple of days and you’ll probably need a lawyer.

And if you fail to spot the official notice of the project in the Bupkis News-Scimitar, well, good luck to you.

There are plenty of reasons for opposing waste-to-energy plants, not least of which is that burning things produces greenhouses gases, which produce extraordinary droughts in Southern  Nova Scotia and floods in Cape Breton, among other nasties.

And the rejection of waste-to-energy more than 20 years ago in Halifax was key to the development of Nova Scotia’s celebrated waste management program.

But, hey, that’s what public comment is for. Remember, you’ll have 23 days to file it.

Which makes T-Labs cynical about the way this change was announced: On September 13, NSE sent a letter (below) to “stakeholders” explaining the change. If stakeholders included Nova Scotia media, the government forgot to tell them–there was no media release. Consequently, a Google search turns up only coverage from two trade publications, both of which follow regulatory changes closely by, we imagine, subscribing to the Nova Scotia Royal Gazette (which, if you’re wondering, has neither comics nor crossword).

You can also find the regulation change in Cabinet’s official Order-in-Council 2016-224, which is a public document known mostly to insiders. In the OIC, you’ll find references to a “Report and Recommendation”, which is even more of an insider document. It is typically a tedious read, but it does contain actual information. As of this writing, Cabinet support staff were unable to help Turpin Labs obtain a copy before Tuesday.

For further reading, NSE’s website has an FAQ on environmental assessments. It was last updated on March 31, 2014.

Or try Metro Vancouver halts incinerator plans, as waste plummets.


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