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New legal action against Northvolt and Quebec

Natasha Kumar By Natasha Kumar Feb12,2024

After failing to stop the work, lawyers are trying to cancel Quebec's authorization.

New action in court against Northvolt and Quebec

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Work on the future factory is underway and will destroy 13.8 hectares of wetlands, in Saint-Basile-le-Grand and McMasterville.

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The mega-factory project of Northvolt batteries is not finished with the courts. Radio-Canada has learned that the Quebec Environmental Law Center (CQDE) filed an initial application for judicial review before the Superior Court on Friday. It aims to cancel the authorization issued by the Minister of the Environment of Quebec.

This is a second attempt by the CQDE, after the failure of the request for an injunction to stop the work felling of trees and filling of wetlands, on January 26.

The lawyers who represent two residents of McMasterville and one of Saint-Basile-le-Grand hope that, this time, a more in-depth analysis of the case will win their case.

According to the plaintiffs, the Minister of the Environment, the Fight against Climate Change, Wildlife and Parks (MELCCFP) made an unreasonable decision, the analysis of which presented significant shortcomings.

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Benoit Charette is the Quebec Minister of the Environment, the Fight against Climate Change, Wildlife and Parks. (File photo)

Their argument emphasizes the fact that Benoit Charette gave his approval without knowing the details of Northvolt's plan to compensate for the destruction of wetlands. The Swedish company has 36 months to submit its plan which aims to create, restore and/or conserve an area of ​​natural environments of 30 to 50 hectares, outside the project site.

LoadingMore ping-pong between Quebec and the doctors

ELSEWHERE ON INFO: More ping-pong between Quebec and doctors

According to the CQDE, this way of doing things is contrary to the purpose of the Law on environmental quality.

The minister did not complete the information research process allowing him to make an informed decision. [It] also ignores what will happen to wildlife species, particularly those with a precarious status, which use the site, pending the implementation of this plan.

A quote from Extract from the introductory request for appeal for judicial review, filed on February 9.

The lawyers argue that without the details of this compensation plan, the minister cannot adequately assess the scope and effectiveness of the mitigation measures to be implemented by Northvolt. It ignores, for example, the exact location of the site(s).

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The project site covers 171 hectares.

The ministry gave Northvolt the choice between two options:

According to our information, Northvolt favors option B. This compensation project is in addition to the $4.7 million in financial compensation that the company paid to the government for the loss of 13 hectares of wetlands. p>

Still according to our information, the Ministry of the Environment had to insist that the company commit in writing to present its plan within 36 months.

Asked to react to this new legal procedure, the minister's office did not respond to us this weekend.

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Northvolt North America co-founder and CEO Paolo Cerruti .

A first hearing will be held on March 15. Our lawyers will present Northvolt's position to the court and out of respect for the ongoing legal process, we will not comment on it before a decision is rendered, responds the spokesperson for the Swedish company, Emmanuelle Rouillard-Moreau.

She adds: We would like to point out that in order to move forward, Northvolt had to rigorously and seriously demonstrate to experts from the MELCCFP and the City of St-Basile-le-Grand that our project complied with the environmental regulations in force. . Serious studies and analyzes have been carried out and many strict conditions have been met to obtain these permits. Thus, we are continuing the work currently underway.

Open in full screen mode< p class="StyledImageCaptionLegend-sc-57496c44-2 sbxsP">The announcement of the project was made with great fanfare on September 28, 2023.

The Swedish company had underestimated the protest at which it would face, especially since Radio-Canada revealed that the Legault government modified a regulation last year, which had the effect of avoiding an examination by the BAPE in the first phase of the project, the Office of Public Hearings on the Environment.

Northvolt must complete its $7 billion project as quickly as possible, as it has committed to delivering battery cell samples to customers as early as July 2026.

It is in this context of racing against time, according to the boss, Paolo Cerruti, (New window) that Northvolt obtained authorization from the ministry in a much shorter time frame than the average. The wildlife opinion prepared by the ministry also indicates: Expected date of the opinion: URGENT.

In November, while officials were still analyzing the project, which they believe will have “major” impacts on natural environments and wildlife, Minister Benoit Charette was accused of putting the spotlight on them. pressure by declaring the wish to see this great project carried out as quickly as possible.

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Representation of the future factory from Northvolt in Montérégie, on the company's website.

In the judgment on the request for an injunction, on January 26, the judge concluded that the plaintiffs' argument is far from demonstrating that the minister is abdicating his responsibilities or exercises its discretion unreasonably by postponing the development of a wetland restoration plan until later.

The minister is not giving Northvolt a blank check.

A quote from Judge David R. Collier, in his judgment of January 26, 2024 relating to the request for an injunction to stop the work.

Nothing suggests that the future remediation plan proposed by Northvolt will not be subject to a rigorous analysis by the minister, added the judge.

The CQDE also contests the tree felling permit issued by Saint-Basile-le-Grand and requests that it be declared invalid. In his judgment on the request for an injunction, the judge concluded that there was a presumption of validity.

At the end of January, the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake also filed a lawsuit in the Superior Court of Quebec against the provincial and federal governments. He would like the court to order Quebec and Ottawa to consult him in the context of the construction of the battery factory.

Recall that the The authorization issued on January 8 to Northvolt does not concern the construction of the factory as such, but only the preparation of the land. Another analysis is underway. If it were the case that the ministry refused to authorize the factory project, the destruction of natural environments would already be completed, or well advanced.

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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 natasha@thetimeshub.in 1-800-268-7116

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