Two members of Nova Scotia's cabinet confirmed Thursday that the besieged tidal turbine that spins around the Bay of Fundy is not well controlled, but will not say how long they will continue to violate its environmental assessment.
The assessment requires weekly monitoring of the Cape Sharp Tidal Venture turbine in the Minas Passage. But the turbine is currently not connected to the electricity grid, which means that the monitoring equipment is not supplied with power.
Reporters have repeatedly asked energy minister Derek Mombourquette to extend his reaction that the turbine must meet "sooner or later".
"I have little patience," he said, but he did not give a single timeline.
"Earlier than later, ideally means that we would now be at a point where it would be operational and we would have taken all steps to continue the operation of the turbine."
Information is missing
Environment minister Margaret Miller also confirmed that monitoring information should be provided to the Fundy Ocean Research Center for Energy, which oversees the turbine test site.
"She [Cape Sharp Tidal] are in violation, but we work with them to reconcile them, "Miller said.
"Cape Sharp has not been able to provide all the information we had hoped they would do, but we are still working with all stakeholders."
Miller walked away and did not respond to a reporter who asked how long her department would allow the turbine to break the rules.
The turbine project is a joint effort by the Irish company OpenHydro Group Ltd. and the Nova Scotia energy company Emera Inc. to test tidal energy in the Minas Passage.
In July, the second test turbine from Cape Sharp Tidal was connected to the electricity grid. Two days later, the parent company of OpenHydro, Naval Energies, announced that it no longer financed projects for tidal energy and that provisional liquidators were appointed to dissolve OpenHydro.
Emera had an interest of 20 percent, but earlier this month it announced itself back from the project.
Mombourquette said he was planning to wait for the trial of the OpenHydro court before he made any decision.
But the uncertainty about the fate of the turbine has only grown after a judge in the Irish Supreme Court has appointed an interim examiner to look at the revival of the company at the end of last week. The request for an examiner was made by minority shareholders.
It is unclear what exactly will happen to the turbine when OpenHydro goes down.
The province, as a regulator of the turbine, has various options for action – including issuing fines or administrative orders.
The environmental assessment emergency plan also includes an option to use a so-called FAST-EMS platform. The Fundy Advanced Sensor Technology – Environmental Monitoring System would be located 30 meters from the center of the turbine, with a tilting function to fix different parts of the water column where necessary.
It is intended to be used in case the sensors are not working or another problem has arisen.
Miller did not answer the question why the platform was not deployed on Thursday.
The only control that is performed is by FORCE and is from the whole area instead of the turbine itself.
NDP leader Gary Burrill said the liberal government should move quickly to bring the turbine owners into line.
"It calls into question the whole question of the reliability of the regulatory system of the Ministry of Environment," Burrill told reporters.
"No wonder the Auditor General said that the public has a solid reason to worry about the follow-up given by the Ministry of the Environment to the industrial approvals it introduces." That's what it says to me. "
Mombourquette said that he has made it clear to stakeholders, including Emera, that the turbine must be in compliance, despite the fact that the company has announced that it will remove itself from the project.
"What they have told us at the moment is that they are moving away from the industry." What we have told them is: "You are still a partner in this and we will look at your expertise and advice go forward when we reach a conclusion," he said.
Mombourquette would not say whether Emera has since agreed to be involved.
The company had to book a security bond in case the turbine had to be returned, but Mombourquette would not reveal how much is in that fund. He said the government is not about to use that money to check the site.
Mombourquette said that Deloitte was hired to look at the viability of OpenHydro, adding that he is waiting for that report.