The Municipality of the District of Lunenburg (MODL) council voted in favour of sending a letter to Premier Stephen McNeil "urging an immediate extension" of the Boat Harbour Act deadline so that Northern Pulp's effluent plant and pipeline can be completed.
However, the motion at the July 23 council meeting added the condition "that Northern Pulp press forward with all the required studies and obtain environmental approvals as required."
MODL is concerned that the closure of the mill would impact jobs negatively in Lunenburg County.
The Nova Scotia government has given the Pictou County-based company a deadline of January 31, 2020 to have an environmentally-sound effluent plant up and running to replace the existing system which spews effluent into Boat Harbour. The government has said it will close the plant if it doesn't meet the deadline.
A new treatment facility has been designed for Northern Pulp property not far from the existing plant, which would discharge roughly four kilometres into the Northumberland Strait.
The company has said it will take time to build the replacement plant and has asked for an extension, but Premier McNeil had indicated he wouldn't budge on the issue.
Councillor Martin Bell, who introduced the motion in favour of an extension, said, "That's not letting them off the hook. That's just saying they need more time to do what needs to be done."
Bell and a number of other councillors spoke up about the potential loss of jobs in Lunenburg County if the mill were to close.
"The truckers will shut down. Places like Silver's truck garage, South Shore Ready Mix truck centre... And we're going to lose just too many jobs," said Councillor Wade Carver.
MODL's mayor, Carolyn-Bolivar Getson agreed.
"That is correct. This is a very important issue in our municipality. We have a lot of people employed in the forestry sector. It's a sector that's taken many hits and we know what happened when a mill closed in Queens County, and the fall out from that particular mill," said Bolivar-Getson.
The mayor added that the motion recognizes there is an environmental problem that needs addressing. However, she added that the company is working to solve that issue and should be given more time to do so.
Council's decision follows a workshop members held recently with industry stakeholders to discuss the implications of the Northern Pulp situation.
Councillor Eric Hustvedt noted he wasn't able to attend and couldn't support the motion. He explained that while he recognized what was at stake in terms of employment, he said he needed more time to think through the environmental costs of the extension.
"I know we're not allowed to abstain, so I'm just not going to vote at this point based on that concern," said Hustvedt.