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Fisheries and wind energy

FFAW calls out World Energy GH2 for lack of consultation on EIS

Wind turbines. – Ed White / Pixabay

By Jaymie White Local Journalism Initiative Reporter WEST COAST — Now that World Energy GH2 has released its Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), residents have had the chance to delve into the hundreds of pages outlining the potential impacts of Project Nujio’qonik. Listed among those is an entire study surrounding the aquatic environment, and numerous species of sea life that could be negatively affected, which sent up red flags for fish harvesters in the province, as they weren’t directly consulted by World Energy GH2. On Oct. 6, the Fish, Food and Allied Workers Union (FFAW) made a statement calling out World Energy for this oversight. “Fish harvesters on the west coast of Newfoundland are calling for an immediate halt to the continuation of the World Energy GH2 onshore wind development project in light of the company’s refusal to engage in consultations. “FFAW-Unifor, the Union that represents over 10,000 commercial fish harvesters in the province, reached out to World Energy GH2 in an attempt to coordinate consultation meetings with harvesters in the affected communities of Stephenville, Port au Port, Codroy Valley and surrounding areas. However, World Energy refused to engage with harvesters in the affected regions, instead asking to meet with the Union’s Executive Board. The company claims that their community consultations over the past 18 months were adequate, however, dozens of harvesters in the affected regions have recently reached out to the Union expressing concern over the project. “The project, which although is an onshore wind project, will have offshore impacts through dredging activities as well as the expulsion of refuse into the ocean adjacent to important fisheries.” Energy Industry Liaison with FFAW, Katie Power, received numerous calls expressing concern once the document was released. “Between myself and Jeff Griffin — he is our staff representative for members on the West Coast — between the two of us, we’ve been getting a fair number of calls. They initially started when the provincial environmental impact statement was released,” said Power. “It’s a massive document and, of course, as harvesters — the ones that had the time to sort of muck their way through that — the main sort of concerns that we’ve had is essentially that there was no consultation. The first complaint that I got was from someone who said, ‘Hey, did you know World Energy is meeting with big game hunters and the outfitters on the West Coast? Have they met with the fishing industry’? This was pretty much the first I’d even heard of consultations for this project and that sounded an alarm for us in terms of, okay, so they are meeting with certain industry stakeholders, but they’ve sort of missed maybe the fisheries. So that was when I initially reached out to them about seeing if we could get some of them to go out and speak to members in the affected communities.” At first it seemed as though consultations were going to move forward between fish harvesters and World Energy. However, once FFAW got their proverbial ducks in a row, they were informed public consultations had concluded. “Throughout the Environmental Impact Statement it does mention a ton of fisheries impacts like the admittance of destruction of fish and fish habitat all throughout the document, and the consultation piece in their Impact Statement seems to be exclusively with DFO. Anyone involved in fishing in Newfoundland and Labrador knows that consultation on a grassroots basis is done with the union and union members, so when I reached out to them initially I said, ‘Hey, are you interested in getting engaged with us? We have a lot of concerned members’. Initially they had said yes, but I think it was because they weren’t really aware of what I was asking,” said Power. “And so at that point I was kind of more so on a positive note with the whole situation. I was okay, they’ve agreed to meet. Let’s go set up some community spaces, let’s organize some members, see who we can get out there to make it worthwhile for them. A few weeks later I reached back out and I said we’re ready to have our open forum discussions with you guys, to the affected members, since the first logical step in any engagement process when there’s going to be impacts on the commercial fishery is to reach out to those members who will be directly affected, and that was when we got the flat out no, which was kind of, it was a surprise to me, and that’s when we’re like, okay, this is problematic for our membership.” Power believes that moving the project forward without having these discussions directly with harvesters is both dismissive and irresponsible. “Originally, this wasn’t necessarily a project that was on our radar just because of the jurisdiction. It’s a provincial project and, from our understanding, it was onshore turbines. It would be on the land, and so it wasn’t until we had harvesters look through this environmental impact statement released in August. Because this was our first time being made aware of the sort of nitty gritty details, since there hadn’t been any consultation with them, this was the first time we realized there’s going to be a lot of spill over impacts into the marine environment that we haven’t been consulted on. So that was sort of when we started compiling our letter,” said Power. ”We submitted our letter yesterday (Oct. 11). That’s part of the public consultation process, and that was their alternative. They said, ‘No, we’re not going to do these community meetings, but same as everybody else, you can submit a letter with your concerns, and the government will address them as they address them all’, and that’s where we’re at right now with it. We’ve submitted our letter.” FFAW was also told that any harvesters who wanted to express their concerns could have attended the public consultations, but the timeline wouldn’t have worked for many. “The public consultation period on the Environmental Impact Statement opened the end of August and closed yesterday, so the middle of October, and there have been harvesters on the Southwest ocean in that area that have been fishing the entire time or a majority of those 50 days,” said Power. “So it’s impossible for them then to read 4,100 pages of documentation, process it, understand it, if they’re out on the water. So the consultation period didn’t give them an opportunity to even read about the concerns that they have to learn about on their own because they weren’t consulted by World Energy.” What FFAW does next will depend on the province. “The Minister’s decision on the acceptability of this Environmental Impact Statement is due on Halloween, the last day of October, October 31. So based on what is determined then, that’s how we’ll decide our next steps moving forward, whether or not we have to escalate things or who we have to engage or what,” said Power.” It will all come down to the Minister’s decision on the acceptability and if there are any conditions that they require.” The FFAW does support a transition to greener, less fossil fuel-dependent technologies, but said it has to be done with sufficient and meaningful consultation. “I think when someone comes forward with a development, any development, whether it be offshore wind, onshore wind or building a fence or anything, if you’re planning on building a development you’re aware that there are impacts that are going to affect specific groups or specific people or specific communities. I think that it would be, again, irresponsible and incorrect, to circumvent processes by not consulting everybody,” said Power. “It doesn’t make sense to me how we weren’t consulted, how it didn’t occur to them throughout these last 18 months. They say they’ve been doing engagements, but they didn’t think, ‘Hey, maybe we should speak to the inshore fishery?’ That’s what I can’t wrap my head around, how they missed that engagement piece with us, and I think the onus is 100 per cent on those who are doing the development.” Power added that certain important information that was missing could have easily been filled in had they spoken to the inshore fishery. “There was a portion, just to give an example, in the Environmental Impact Statement about missing inshore lobster fishing data, and there was some sort of confidentiality red tape in getting that information from DFO, and it just made me wonder because, had they reached out to us when they were doing these consultation pieces, we could have likely filled these gaps and then made this Environmental Impact Statement an enhanced assessment of the impacts.” World Energy GH2 said FFAW has not been consulted due to a refusal on their end, not an unwillingness from World Energy. “Over the past 18 months, World Energy GH2 has met with thousands of people in the project area, many of whom are fish harvesters and members of FFAW. World Energy GH2 has not yet met with the FFAW executive because offers to meet have been refused by FFAW. The FFAW executive has not provided any information, and has not asked any questions about the project. “On August 24, 2023, the FFAW reached out to World Energy GH2 to request a meeting. World Energy GH2 responded the same day, welcoming a meeting. FFAW said they would get back to us about timing. “The next time we heard from FFAW was on September 26, 2023, when FFAW requested an open forum meeting. Since many open forum meetings have already been held in the area, World Energy GH2 asked to meet with FFAW’s executive. This offer was refused by FFAW.” World Energy is satisfied with the results from their numerous community collaboration sessions. “Community engagement and consultation began in March 2022 with more intensive consultation and engagement starting in May, 2022. World Energy GH2 has met with thousands of community members in the project area. “Stakeholder engagement has included a series of one-on-one and group meetings, drop-in sessions within communities, opening a Community Information Office in Stephenville (July 2022), distributing brochures and household mail outs, launching a website and social media accounts, sharing an e-newsletter, delivering speeches/presentations to communities and business leaders, hosting 20 hours of open houses in communities in the project area (April 2023), responding to emails and phone calls from community members, and participating in community events and sponsorships. “The project has a great deal of support from community members, community leaders and Indigenous leaders. We will continue to build trusting relationships over time.” Even though there are potential impacts to the fisheries, the EIS also includes information on how to lesson those impacts. “The EIS assesses potential impacts to the marine environment in Chapter 11, and potential impacts to Indigenous Fisheries in Chapter 21. In each of these chapters, interactions with the marine environment and Indigenous Fisheries are assessed. Interactions have been assessed as creating non-significant potential effects to the valued environmental components. “WEGH2 has committed to implementing an extensive list of mitigations to reduce any potential impacts to the marine environment and Indigenous Fisheries. A list of commitments around mitigations is provided in Appendix 26. “The Impact Assessment Agency of Canada has completed a thorough review of the project and the provincial assessment process, and has concluded that a federal assessment is not required and that the provincial environmental assessment process is appropriate for the project.” World Energy said they haven’t received a high number of concerns from fish harvesters. “Over the past 18 months, we’ve had conversations with many fish harvesters in the area. Fish harvesters’ questions, concerns, and related mitigations are reflected in the EIS. “Since the EIS has been submitted, we’ve received questions and concerns from two fish harvesters in the area, with each person asking questions or expressing concern about the plant’s wastewater. We’ve responded to the individuals and let them know that the plant’s wastewater will be purified water. No other substances will be expelled from the discharge pipe.” World Energy did their due diligence by looking into impacts from other wind farms. “As part of the environmental assessment, Stantec researched potential effects from other wind farms. We are not aware of other onshore wind projects affecting offshore fish harvesters.

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