[HALIFAX, NS] – The Margaree Environmental Association hopes Nova Scotia Supreme Court Justice David MacAdam will quash Petroworth Resources Inc.'s permit to drill for oil near Lake Ainslie.
The environmental association appealed Environment Minister Sterling Belliveau's rejection of their argument that the project is within 100 metres of a watercourse – which would make it illegal.
The case swings on the definition applied to "disputed channel" as MacAdam calls it. Residents call it "Parkins Brook," while the Environment Department reports call it a "drainage conveyance."
Derek Simon, the lawyer for the environmental association, argues the minister and his staff should have made a greater effort to make the right appraisal of the "channel."
"In the complete absence of any evidence as to the nature of the watercourse, that decision can't stand," Simon says.
Simon was hampered because he couldn't introduce evidence on behalf of his client during the appeal, including some crucial evidence that Belliveau might not have had.
"The brook drains into a wetland, which turns into a watercourse, which drains into a further wetland and into the lake," Simon says. Simon hopes MacAdam sees "Parkins Brook" as a watercourse and that should end the matter once and for all because it is less than 50 metres from the proposed drill site.
"We're obviously hoping that they'll quash the approval," Simon says.
If the court does send it back to the environment minister for further review, Simon is hoping it's "with some direction as to what the minister has to take into account and our clients having a chance to submit their evidence."
Environment Department lawyer Aleta Cromwell acknowledges that Belliveau only had a low level of procedural fairness to meet and met it in his review.
"He relied on the expertise of his staff and an independent report," Cromwell says of Belliveau's review of watercourses in the area. "If a body of water is man-made it is not necessarily a watercourse."
Martin Neynens, a concerned citizen and landowner who attended Tuesday's hearing, grew up on shores of Lake Ainslie and has recently purchased land on the lakeshore.
"There are watercourses right below there they're planning on drilling. Water sediment will run into Lake Ainslie, it's just the natural way the water runs," Neynens says.
"When that happens, the clear water you see down there now will be gone and we have to stop it."