Mon. Jul 22nd, 2024

Northvolt: scientific arguments removed from the analysis

Natasha Kumar By Natasha Kumar Feb21,2024

Last year, the Ministry of the Environment justified by science the refusal of a project on the same site.

Northvolt: scientific arguments removed from analysis

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The backfilling of wetlands is underway on the land of the future battery factory.

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Scientific justifications have disappeared from the analysis of the Northvolt project, authorized by the Quebec Ministry of the Environment, Radio-Canada has discovered. The official to whom the government entrusted the analysis set aside most of the scientific references that she had used, a few months earlier, to recommend the rejection of another project in the same location.

Thanks to the Access to Documents Act, we were able to compare the analysis reports of the two projects, carried out by the same biologist from the ministry, a few months apart. Their outcome was diametrically opposed.

In December 2022 and then in March 2023, the principal analyst recommended to her superiors to reject the residential project of the company MC2, of the promoter Luc Poirier and his associates, because it undermined the biodiversity conservation function that wetlands fulfill, among others.

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The vast land located straddling McMasterville and Saint-Basile-le-Grand , in Montérégie.

To justify her conclusions, the official cited 23 references including 9 scientific articles which supported the demonstration of the ecological value of the site and the harmful impact on the environment.

On the other hand, in its analysis report on the Northvolt project, submitted in January 2024, it only kept 11 references and no scientific articles. She then concluded that the project was compliant and could be approved.

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As the two reports were produced by the same analyst, we find numerous passages copied and pasted from one to the other, but we also notice the disappearance of passages which described the ecological quality of the site.< /p>LoadingTwo years at the front with the Ukrainians

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Throughout the reading of this text, you will find comparisons between the two analyzes in boxes, like the one below.

The coveted terrain for both projects are an abandoned industrial site, partly contaminated, which was operated by the former Canada Industries Limite (C.I.L) explosives plant until 1999. Several of the wetlands are from excavations, but the fauna and flora have since regained their rights there.

The origin of wetlands has no impact on their roles and importance, writes the Ministry of the Environment in its analyses. However, one sentence has disappeared from a paragraph copied and pasted between the two reports: They are therefore considered natural environments.

The fact that these environments have become renaturalized was almost hidden in the second report, notes Stéphanie Pellerin, associate professor in the department of biological sciences at the University of Montreal, who compared the two documents for us.

What jumped out at me was that everything x27;aspect on the importance of wetlands, in particular the regional assessment which was in the MC2 analysis, has completely disappeared from the Northvolt analysis. It's really striking.

A quote from Stéphanie Pellerin, associate professor in the department of biological sciences at the University of Montreal

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Stéphanie Pellerin, from the Plant Biology Research Institute of the University of Montreal.

Stéphanie Pellerin, specialist in wetlands, has already collaborated with the Ministry of the Environment and is used to reading this kind of analysis. She knows the official who wrote the analyzes well, having supervised her master's thesis in 2019. She calls her a high-quality student.

The biologist joined the Ministry of the Environment in October 2020. She quickly worked on the analysis of the MC2 project. Reading that report impressed me, said her former teacher. It was very detailed.

As the civil servant knew the characteristics of the land, she was then entrusted with the analysis of the Northvolt battery factory project, considered the largest manufacturing project in the history of Quebec .

In the first report, the scientific references supported the refusal, notes Stéphanie Pellerin. According to her, if the ministry had reproduced these references in the Northvolt project report, the final decision to give the green light would no longer have been supported. Their withdrawal helped justify the agreement, adds the professor. It's like we're diminishing.

All of this no longer supported the fact that the permit was granted. People would have wondered why we were giving the permit, considering the very great value of these environments.

A quote from Stéphanie Pellerin, associate professor in the department of biological sciences at the University of Montreal

Contacted directly by Radio-Canada, the official referred us to the ministry's communications.

Given that the case is being taken to court, no comments will be made on this subject, responded the spokesperson for the Ministry of the Environment, the Fight against Climate Change, Wildlife and Parks, Ghizlane Behdaoui.

At the beginning of February, the Quebec Environmental Law Center filed an initiating request for judicial review before the Superior Court. It aims to cancel the authorization issued by Quebec.

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The least bittern, from the heron family, is a protected species present on the future Northvolt site.

In January, the Court rejected a request for an injunction from the CQDE to stop Northvolt's work.

The judge concluded that the main reason justifying the refusal of the [MC2] project, in March 2023, was the significant and irreversible damage to wetlands constituting a potential nesting habitat for the least bittern, a bird designated vulnerable . However, Northvolt's work does not plan to touch these environments.

The official's affidavit, filed in Superior Court, also shows that she negotiated at length with Northvolt to extract from it the conservation of tens of hectares of natural environments on the site and compensation for dozens of x27;other hectares of natural environments elsewhere in the region.

According to a source at the Ministry of the Environment, this is the protection of this species of bird and the promise of compensation which made all the difference between the two projects.

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Quebec Minister of Economy, Innovation and Energy, Pierre Fitzgibbon .

In front of business people in November, the Minister of the Economy, Innovation and Energy, Pierre Fitzgibbon, declared that the project site is probably a place where fish have three eyes.

In a letter published Monday, the minister assures that the government is not giving Northvolt a free pass and that even without analysis from the Bureau d'public hearings on the environment (BAPE), Quebec follows a very demanding and respected environmental assessment process.

It's a bit unusual that there are things that disappear, notes the former analyst of the Ministry of the Environment (2012-2014), Martin Patenaude-Monette, to whom we have read both documents.

Like Stéphanie Pellerin, the former civil servant, who has already written such analyses, praises the quality of the arguments and references used in the report of the MC2 project, but is surprised by the content of the second.

What is unusual, [is that] there are arguments that magically disappear. […] That's what annoys me.

A quote from Martin Patenaude-Monette, former analyst at the Quebec Ministry of the Environment

In the wildlife opinion cited in reference in the analysis of the Northvolt project, we can read that it is urgent that the official submit her conclusions.

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Excerpt from the wildlife notice for the Northvolt project which indicates that the file is “urgent”.

In November, while the biologist was still carrying out her analysis, the Minister of the Environment, Benoit Charette, publicly declared that the project of Northvolt was a great project that needed to be realized as quickly as possible. The opposition then accused him of putting pressure on civil servants.

I heard, in the ministry's offices, pressure from management who said: "The authorization must come out, it's slow, it's languishing," says Martin Patenaude-Monette .

Former analyst Martin Patenaude-Monette published on February 15 an “investigation comic” entitled A very natural sacrifice –< /em> The failures of the protection of biodiversity in Quebec. He mentions in particular the case of the wooded swallows, in Montérégie, in which the former Liberal Minister of the Environment David Heurtel had given the green light to a housing project despite the presence of plants threatened with disease. extinction and protected by law.

In the case of the McMasterville and Saint-Basile-le-Grand site, the MC2 company ended by selling his land to Northvolt. Negotiations on this subject had even begun before the Ministry of the Environment's rejection of the MC2 project.

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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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