Fredericton – Once considered progressive and ahead of the times by other jurisdictions in Canada, New Brunswick’s water protection measures are going down the drain. Policies and regulations that were intended to provide legal protection to New Brunswick’s rivers and streams are being weakened by the provincial government in an apparent attempt to reduce environmental constraints on the developers of mines, shale gas fields and subdivisions.
“There appears to be a concerted effort by the provincial government to turn the clock back on environmental regulation, to permit more water pollution and more damage to aquatic ecosystems,” said David Coon, Executive Director at CCNB Action.
According to correspondence received by CCNB, the provincial government has abandoned plans to create legally binding water quality standards for our lakes and rivers with a decision to shelve the Clean Water Act’s 2002 Water Classification Regulation. The regulation gives government the legal powers to establish legally-binding water quality standards based on a system of classifying water quality.
Since 1999, more than 22 watersheds across the province have been classified by local watershed groups. However, the Minister of Environment has refused to issue the Watershed Designation Protection Orders needed to give the water classifications the force of law. Without these ministerial orders, water quality standards cannot be established.
Stephanie Merrill, the Freshwater Protection Coordinator at CCNB Action, is concerned that the timing of these policy changes is not a coincidence. “This is no time to be undermining water protection when shale gas and new mining development is poised to take off. We should be working to beef them up,” said Merrill.
The Nashwaak watershed, one of the last remaining pristine tributaries on the St. John system, was given its provisional classification status in 2004, but it has not been legally implemented despite a proposal for an open pit tungsten-molybdenum mine and the intense shale gas exploration in the watershed.