Frequently Asked Questions and Answers
1. There are lots of companies involved in forestry, why do you say Northern Pulp is so important to the forestry in Nova Scotia?
Northern Pulp was our largest mill by far – approximately 2.5 times larger than Port Hawkesbury Paper. Northern Pulp (like Port Hawkesbury Paper) is important because they paid wood fiber suppliers a higher price for sawmill wood chips and low grade pulpwood compared to other users of these products. For Northern Pulp, it was possible to pay a higher price due to their value added pulping process, their central location and the benefits of varied tree species used to produce their product, Northern Bleached Softwood Kraft (NBSK) pulp. NBSK pulp is in demand worldwide because of its unique finer strength characteristics that are essential in paper & tissue products. Northern Pulp was the largest buyer of sawmill wood chips and low grade pulpwood of all types across Nova Scotia. Taking the largest customer out of the forestry market effectively kills it. Along with the volume of fiber it bought from private and crown lands, Northern also provided saw logs to sawmills. Northern Pulp’s scale supported the economics of an integrated harvesting & trucking network, broad-based silviculture activities and was critical to Nova Scotia’s 30,000 small woodlot owners receiving fair value for their forest stands because they created a market for saw logs and pulpwood. More forest products had value because Northern Pulp was operating. Without Northern Pulp, every component of forestry has less value.
2. What is the economic impact to other forestry companies of Northern Pulp’s closure?
Some companies that mostly worked directly with Northern Pulp will be dramatically impacted. Their core market or supplier closed overnight. For the other companies involved in forestry, they should expect lower prices for the products they produce, if they can find a market at all.
Sawmill operations used to receive about 20 to 25% of their income by selling wood chips and bark to Northern Pulp. The price for these chips has dropped by 30 to 50% if they are fortunate enough to even have a buyer for them. This decrease in sawmill income has a domino effect and has resulted in sawmills paying less to contractors and landowners for the sawlogs they purchase.
There are almost no markets anywhere for low grade softwood pulpwood to replace the loss of the Northern Pulp market. The few remaining small markets have a different price point they can pay wood finer suppliers in order to be profitable and sustainable. This has resulted in the price dropping by approximately 30 to 50% for pulpwood. Once again, the domino effect has negatively impacted both harvesting contractors and woodland owners. The value of standing timber to woodland owners has decreased 30 to 50%.
Everybody in the sector has been harmed. The Government that made the decision to close Northern Pulp has estimated there will be a $400 million dollar reduction in economic activity each year from the Northern Pulp closure.
3. Is Nova Scotia’s new model of “Ecological Forestry” viable without a large pulp mill operating?
It will not be possible to undertake many of the forestry practices recommended by the Lahey Report without a fair price and market for low grade pulpwood.
4. There are 89 other kraft pulp mills in Canada. Was Northern Pulp trying to do something different than all the operating mills including many in Atlantic Canada?
No. Northern Pulp was operating within all the current regulations and limits and had proposed to invest $130 million in a new, state of the art, Effluent Treatment Facility (EFT) which would have been among the best in Canada.
5. What are Nova Scotia’s rules for permitting a new pulp mill effluent treatment facility?
Nova Scotia’s rules are very murky. The government of Nova Scotia has not set rules for permitting a new effluent treatment facility. They basically have said to Northern Pulp, propose something and we’ll tell you if we like it. Northern Pulp has already done this twice. Meanwhile, across Canada, the Federal Pulp and Paper Effluent Regulations (PPER) are used as the cornerstone for mill effluent standards. What’s good enough for the other 89 mills across Canada apparently isn’t good enough for Northern Pulp. The Department of Environment won’t say what is good enough. They keep moving the goalposts based on the latest public intervention of some anti-forestry individual or organizations. It’s impossible to respond to a moving regulatory target.
6. Why wasn’t five years enough time for Northern Pulp to come up with an alternative to using Boat Harbour?
Five years might have been enough time if the process for review and the required field work was clear and fair. It never was. Northern Pulp went through two full environmental review processes. Completed 68 studies by independent consultants. Initially only seven studies were requested. It spent over $15 million on the reviews. The goal posts kept moving and keep moving. Northern Pulp has said they would like to stay in Nova Scotia but need a clear, fair and objective process to make this environmental improvement to its mill.
7. Would a new effluent treatment facility use Boat Harbour in any manner?
No. Boat Harbour will not be used by Northern Pulp anymore. The plan is to build a new onsite treatment facility and treated wastewater pipeline to the Northumberland Strait. The treated wastewater would be released there like other treated municipal wastewater systems in from Pictou County.
8. Why would you want to extend a treated wastewater pipe into the Northumberland Strait? Lobster fishermen say that risks their livelihood.
Previously, the treated wastewater from Northern Pulp was released in the Strait. Now, it will be processed and treated on land instead of in Boat Harbour. The lobsters from that area haven’t been affected for over 50 years of the mill operating and they won’t be in the future. We understand that fisherman would be concerned but the science is clear. There will be no impact. Treated pulp mill wastewater and fishing coexist all over the country and can continue to in Pictou as they have for over half a century. For example, the world’s largest and most prolific commercial salmon fishing river, the Fraser River in BC has three pulp mills operating adjacent to it with their treated wastewater released in it. The important point is that the water is treated like all of the other municipal wastewater treatment plants in Pictou County and throughout the Northumberland Strait.
9. Why is the proposed effluent pipeline routed through the Pictou Town watershed?
The pipeline needs to get from the mill site to the release point in the Northumberland Strait. The safest and best way to do that is by underground pipeline. The best and most accessible route transverses a small portion of the watershed. The pipe will be built to robust containment standards and have modern leak detection systems.
10. The Government has announced a $50 million dollar Forestry Transition Fund. Will it work?
The Transition Fund is a band aid on a machete wound. A onetime $50 million program of government interference to replace an annual $2 billion dollar industry that was private sector market-based is merely a distraction and an attempt at government face-saving. It will not replace what Northern Pulp did for the sector.