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Environment: Northvolt expects a very quick green light | The battery industry

Natasha Kumar By Natasha Kumar Nov20,2023

The Swedish company requested to destroy wetlands one month after its request, while the average time to obtain ministerial authorization is 15 months.< /p>

Environment: Northvolt expects a very rapid green light | The battery sector

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Benoit Charette, Minister of the Environment, the Fight against Climate Change, Wildlife and Parks< /p>

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In addition to escaping BAPE examination for its battery manufacturing mega-factory, the Northvolt company expects to very quickly receive authorization from the Ministry of the Environment to destroy batteries. wetlands. A document, obtained by Radio-Canada, reveals that it asked Quebec in September for the right to backfill them from October 2023. On average, other projects face delays 15 times longer.

The ministerial authorization request file, obtained through the Access to Information Act, shows that an area of ​​130,000 square meters of wetlands will be permanently affected on Northvolt land , straddling McMasterville and Saint-Basile-le-Grand, in Montérégie.

In the application document, dated September 6, we read that the Swedish company planned to begin clearing the land, filling in the wetlands and preparing the site in October and complete this work in December.

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Work schedule submitted by Northvolt to the Ministry of the Environment, September 6, 2023. DS1 and DS2 correspond to the manufacturing and assembly plant of batteries. UP5, the cathode materials manufacturing site. And RV1, battery recycling operations.

Obtaining such authorization in one month is extremely optimistic. We analyzed the delays of 116 authorizations granted by the Montérégie regional directorate of the Ministry of the Environment since 2018. On average, developers wait 15 months before being authorized to harm a wetland.

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For example, the Alta industrial park in Coteau-du-Lac waited 22 months and the expansion of a logistics center in Varennes took 13 months. Even school construction required delays of 3 to 7 months to obtain the green light from the ministry. And to destroy wetlands as part of the Carignan seniors' home project: 8 months of waiting.

On November 10, we asked the office of Minister of the Environment Benoit Charette if Northvolt had obtained authorization to destroy wetlands. Answer: Yes, they have this ministerial authorization.

Then, two days later, the firm admitted an error and instead told us that the application is still under evaluation.

On November 9, the ministry sent us a series of documents, following our request for access. The work schedule was included. On November 14, we shared this chart with Northvolt to ask about it. The next day, the ministry contacted us to ask us to destroy and stop using this document.

Inadvertently, the document was transmitted without masking. We ask for your cooperation in order to immediately destroy the documents transmitted, on all your computer devices (mobile phone, computer, tablet, etc.) and to cease their use.

A quote from Martin Dorion , ministerial managerof accesstodocuments for theMELCCFP< /em>

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The Swedish company's project was announced with great fanfare on September 28 .

Time is important for the Swedish company, which wants to enter production as early as 2026.

In response to questions from Radio-Canada, the company explains that the filing of its authorization request follows meetings held between Northvolt and ministry experts, in order to fully understand the ministry's requirements and comply with it.

At the end of these meetings, Northvolt made considerable efforts to meet the requirements and minimize the impacts on the environment.

A quote from Laurent Therrien , spokesperson for Northvolt

According to the Environment Ministry, officials began talking to Northvolt from May 1, 2023, but it was in March that some were informed of the project.

The director of the Regional Environmental Council of Centre-du-Québec, Andréanne Blais, who monitors battery sector projects near Bécancour, affirms that ;there are analysts at the ministry who have been assigned to accelerate files, as part of the battery strategy.

From my perception, there is inequity in the processing of requests.

A quote from Andréanne Blais, general director of the Regional Environmental Council of Centre-du-Québec

Since 2020, the Ministry of the Environment has instructed its civil servants to adopt a new “customer support culture”. The deputy minister at the time wrote to them: We must deal with each request as if it were ours, as if we were the promoter.

The future site of the factory, seen from the air

Northvolt's future mega-factory threatens to wipe out 60% of the site's wetlands if the application is granted. Some of these wetlands are classified as being of metropolitan interest by the Montreal Metropolitan Community. More than 85% of Montérégie wetlands have already disappeared.

Whether they are marshes, swamps, ponds or peat bogs, wetlands are like the kidneys of nature. They filter and act as a buffer to prevent both flooding and drought, and to regulate water flow.

Until #x27;to 7 million dollars in compensation

The destruction of these environments will require the company to pay compensation to the Ministry of the Environment. According to our estimate, based on a ministry calculation tool, Northvolt will have to pay between $4.6 and $6.7 million, depending on the quality and state of degradation of the environments which will be recognized by Quebec. /p>

The firm CIMA+, commissioned by Northvolt, inventoried 74 wetlands on the site, including 8 ponds, 19 marshes, 28 tree swamps and 19 shrub swamps. There are also two streams.

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Wetlands are rich in animal and plant species. CIMA+ identified 65 bird species on the site, including the barn swallow (considered threatened by the federal government), the eastern wood-pewee (classified as special concern) and the least bittern (provincially vulnerable). and federally threatened).

According to the documents submitted by Northvolt, it cannot be ruled out that the work could cause mortality among these birds, but considerable efforts have been put in place, assures the company, to avoid sensitive environments. p>

Northvolt also promises to do everything possible to not harm the spiny softshell turtle, designated threatened in Quebec, and found on the site. No chorus frogs or snakes were observed, according to CIMA+.

Two floral species likely to be designated threatened or vulnerable in Quebec, shagbark hickory and two-tone oak have also been detected on site.

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Natasha Kumar

By Natasha Kumar

Natasha Kumar has been a reporter on the news desk since 2018. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining The Times Hub, Natasha Kumar worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my 1-800-268-7116

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