RODDICKTON-BIDE ARM, N.L. – A meeting with provincial government representatives has left Roddickton-Bide Arm mayor Sheila Fitzgerald feeling optimistic about a pellet plant’s prospects on the Great Northern Peninsula.
But she hopes it won’t drag the process out unnecessarily.
Fitzgerald, and the Roddickton-Bide Arm town council, recently had a meeting with representatives of the Department of Fisheries and Land Resources at the council chambers in Roddickton-Bide Arm
They discussed the status of the department’s review of an Active Energy Group (AEG) proposal to put a pellet plant operation on the Great Northern Peninsula.
The Roddickton-Bide Arm council has been hopeful the plant would be located in its community.
Also among the 17 people attending, in person or by phone, were contractors from the Northern Peninsula Loggers Association, Great Northern Peninsula Joint Council chair Gerry Gros and a representative from St. Anthony town council.
Based on information relayed from Fisheries and Land Resources to the council, Fitzgerald felt the process was looking favourable for the pellet plant.
And she hopes a decision can be reached as soon as possible because there are members of her community who need work.
At this time of year, she says she’s starting to hear from seasonal workers who are seeking employment. They’re wondering about the status of the proposed pellet plant and if that’s a place where they can find work.
Fitzgerald hopes the process isn’t slowed down so the announcement can coincide with a 2019 provincial election.
“At this point I feel very positive because all the people I’ve talked to have been very positive talking about this deal,” she said. “But I just hope this deal is not slowed down because of politics. I know we’re getting closer to the next election. Will they hold it off so it’s closer to when the campaigning starts?”
She feels that too much hangs in the balance for her community to wait for that reason.
“Because these are lives, you have people who are depending on and waiting on this,” said Fitzgerald. “And we need it so bad. Businesses are suffering, families are suffering.”
The Department of Fisheries and Land Resources released a statement to the Northern Pen, stating the meeting was held, “to clearly identify to local forest operators the proposal from AEG.”
It said the department plans to engage with other councils in the area as well.
“Government is committed to the sustainable utilization of the forest resources on the Northern Peninsula, which will contribute to the local and provincial economy. The department recognizes forest operators that are currently dependent on the forests of the Great Northern Peninsula and will ensure timber allocations are maintained according to departmental policy or through the promotion of positive business-to-business arrangements with Active Energy.”
In May 2017, it was first reported by The Telegram that the provincial government had reached a tentative agreement with Active Energy Group (AEG) on a 20-year forestry lease covering almost all of the Northern Peninsula.
The plan was for AEG to work with affiliated company Advanced Biomass Solutions to manufacture wood pellets as part of their “CoalSwitch” product.
A pellet plant would be opened on the Northern Peninsula, creating 56 jobs. Additional employment would come at a local port, bringing the total of new jobs to about 70.
The company would also contract existing logging firms on the Northern Peninsula.
In September 2017, Richard Spinks, CEO of AEG, told the Northern Pen he believed the process was entirely in the provincial government’s hands.
However, no decision has been announced.