An environmental group is worried CN may once again carry out herbicide spraying next to the Skeena River, including areas of valuable salmon habitat.
Kilometres of dead vegetation along the CN line between Terrace and Prince Rupert last year sparked complaints by the T. Buck Suzuki Environmental Foundation (TBSEF) and sparked an investigation by the province. While the the investigation is still underway, the provincial environment ministry has noted that CN conducted the spraying after it’s provincial Pest Management Plan had expired.
Now T. Buck Suzuki spokesperson Luanne Roth says a letter from CN indicates the company no longer believes it’s subject to provincial regulations.
“We received this letter from CN because we’d approached them, because we wanted to make sure what happened last year didn’t happen again, right? So we were hoping to, you know, come up with a… look at their plan, make sure they had ways to let applicators know which areas were sensitive… where the waterways fed into salmon habitat and this is the letter we got back from them,” said Roth. “So it does make me think that they might just go ahead and spray once again this summer, too close to salmon-bearing waters.”
The letter (2108-05-23 Letter to BC MOE) from CN’s Legislative Affairs Coordinator Monika Pezdek to the ministry and copied to TBSEF, in part reads “as a federally-regulated interprovincial railway company, CN is of the view that it is not required to submit a [BC] Pest Management Plan”.
In a statement issued to CFNR, CN says it “fully intends to carry out its environmental activities in keeping with the high standards in place in British Columbia, including restrictions on the use of herbicides near waterways” and is “fully committed to performing vegetation management activities safely and in an environmentally and socially responsible way.”
The BC environment ministry says the Conservation Officer Service investigation of the spraying in partnership with Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) environmental enforcement officers is active and ongoing.
In a statement to CFNR, the environment ministry says it has stated in writing to CN Rail that the company is required to comply with the Integrated Pest Management Act and Regulation, including the requirement to have a Pesticide Use Notice Confirmation and the associated Pest Management Plan, which requires public consultation and First Nations engagement.
The ministry says that from the contents of the recent letter from CN, “it is clear that they disagree with this position”.
What, if any, action the province will take prior to any proposed pesticide spraying by CN is unclear.