A New Brunswick shell processing plant has been given approval from the provincial government to continue operations for the next nine months as it faces a legal challenge over long-term odour and noise complaints.
Coastal Shell Products in Beaurivage has been granted approval to operate until Aug. 31, 2024. The company’s prior three-month approval to operate licence expired on Thursday.
Coastal Shell Products didn’t respond to a request for comment on Friday.
The community group Kent Clear Air Action Committee has asked for a court injunction against Coastal Shell Products, with a judge’s decision still to come.
On Friday, Environment and Climate Change Minister Gary Crossman said the province’s nine month approval to operate was granted in order to allow the company to gather money for facility repairs.
"It’s my understanding that since the coalition has taken them to court, that financing is being held up," said Crossman during Friday’s question period. "Because certainly nobody wants to invest money if it’s going to stop tomorrow."
Maisie Rae McNaughton, spokesperson for Kent Clear Air Action Committee, said the group was expecting the province to approve operations for the company, but for three-months, not nine.
"I don’t really understand why Minister Crossman is using the injunction as a way of justifying a longer permit," said McNaughton in an interview. "As far as I’m concerned, the legal case and what the department of environment does are two completely separate things."
Coastal Shell Product converts seafood waste into a products such as dried shells and bio-organic fertilizer for export. Complaints about facility odours began as soon as the plant opened in 2016 according to McNaughton.
"The smell is still incredible, both from what emanates from the stack as well as the ambient odours," said McNaughton. "Just this past Sunday it was gag inducing, and the stack wasn’t even running."
Liberal leader Susan Holt said the provincial government should’ve denied the company approval to operate.
"This organization has been saying that they’ve had a plan since 2016," said Holt, during question period. "Those were commitments made to a previous government that that they didn’t deliver on, and it’s been year after year after year."
"When is enough enough?"
Crossman replied to Holt that it was the previous Liberal government under Brian Gallant which provided $2.9 million for the plant to begin operations.
Crossman acknowledged the odour from the facility remained a problem.
"(Coastal Shell Product) have a plan to reduce the odours," said Crossman during question period. "The first part of the plan, first part of the equipment, came in to reduce the odours, in my belief, in the inside. We’re now working on the outside to make sure there are improvements in it."
Asked later by reporters what would happen if the company failed to meet obligations going forward, Crossman said "we’ll look at that, at the time.”
McNaughton said Friday’s confirmation of the company’s approval to operate being extended was "heartbreaking."
"I had to be the one today to break the news to my community, and there were tears," said McNaughton.
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