Fri. Mar 1st, 2024

Northvolt can continue its works, the court decides | The battery sector

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Northvolt had started its tree felling work on the site of its future battery cell factory, in Montérégie, before suspending it, while the Court ruled on the request for an injunction filed by the CQDE and three citizens. (Archive photo)

The Canadian Press

Quebec Superior Court Judge David R. Collier on Friday rejected the request for a provisional interlocutory injunction against the Northvolt company. It will therefore be able to resume tree felling work on its land.

The request was submitted by the Quebec Center of environmental law and three citizens.

If there is a public interest in protecting the environment, there is also a public interest in protecting the legal certainty of activities authorized by the public administration, the judge notably wrote in his decision.

The CQDE lawyers argued that a few months ago, the destruction of wetlands in the same location had been refused in the framework of another project and that the ministry's experts spoke at the time of the importance of these environments for the region and for biodiversity.

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However, according to Judge Collier, it is important to emphasize that the Minister exercises his discretionary power on a case-by-case basis, according to each proposed project and that the law does not provide that the Minister, by refusing to issue an authorization on a given site, binds its discretionary power for the future on this same site.

The judge underlined that the main reason which led to the refusal of the project in March 2023 was the significant and irreversible damage to wetlands constituting a potential nesting habitat for the least bittern, a threatened bird species. . However, the Northvolt project will not encroach on the wetlands which serve as potential habitat for the nesting of the least bittern, according to the judge.

The plaintiff argued that the Ministry of the Environment authorized Northvolt to begin work on the site of the future factory in Montérégie , without knowing precisely the impact on biodiversity, and without Northvolt presenting a detailed compensation plan.

According to the court's decision, the argument according to which the minister's decision ignores the situation of species with precarious status was put forward even before the plaintiffs read the ministry's documents. However, according to the judge, these documents, including a wildlife opinion prepared by the ministry, demonstrate that the minister took into account the situation of the wildlife found on the Northvolt site.

Concerning the argument according to which the Minister issued a ministerial authorization to Northvolt without it providing a detailed compensation plan to compensate for the impacts of the project on biodiversity, Judge Collier is of the opinion that the minister is not giving Northvolt a blank check. The judge stressed that Northvolt will have to acquire neighboring land of 18 hectares (ha) to create a total natural environment of 94 ha in the project area or create, restore or conserve a natural environment with an area of ​​50 ha elsewhere in the area for use by wildlife.

The plaintiff also maintained that the City of Saint-Basile-le-Grand issued a tree felling permit to Northvolt based on an unreasonable interpretation of the interim control regulation (RCI) of the metropolitan community of Montreal concerning wetlands.

But the burden placed on the plaintiffs is heavy. However, in the opinion of the Court, the plaintiffs have failed to meet this heavy burden. They failed to assert an apparent right that the actions taken by the minister and the municipality were unreasonable on their face. For this reason, their request for a provisional interlocutory injunction will be refused, we can read in the judge's decision.

In a press release, the CQDE indicated that it would take the time to analyze the judgment with its lawyers to confirm whether they will debate, as quickly as possible, the request for an injunction. interlocutory to request a new suspension of work, the time to shed light on this project.

The Northvolt company also reacted by publishing a press release in which it wrote that it had to make rigorous and serious demonstration to experts from the MELCCFP and the City of St-Basile-le-Grand that its project complied with the environmental regulations in force and that serious studies and analyzes were carried out and numerous strict conditions were met to obtain these permits.

Northvolt has indicated that it will continue preparatory work on its site as of today.

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