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Quebec admits to having wanted to avoid the BAPE examination at Northvolt

Natasha Kumar By Natasha Kumar Mar6,2024

The company also contradicts its past statements and admits having tried to evade them.

Québec admits having wanted to avoid the BAPE exam at the end of the year Northvolt

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Quebec Minister of the Environment, Benoit Charette.

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For the first time ever, Environment Minister Benoit Charette admits to having deliberately helped Northvolt avoid scrutiny by the Bureau of Hearings public authorities on the environment (BAPE), for fear of losing the project. In an interview with La Presse, we also learned that the company lobbied to escape the BAPE, contrary to what it has always said.

For more than six months, the Legault government has denied in every forum having allowed the battery megaproject to benefit from an accelerated authorization process. There is no privilege granted to the company, declared the Minister of the Environment, Benoit Charette, on November 16, 2023.

We are accused of having changed the rules so that Northvolt could avoid a BAPE, which is false, defended the Minister of the Economy on February 27, criticizing the work of the media.

The line of communication has just changed. In his interview with La Presse, Minister Charette affirms that the project would not have been carried out here, if it had been necessary to submit it for examination by the BAPE.

If I had told [the leaders of] Northvolt at the time that a BAPE would take us 18 months before we could give them an idea of ​​what would be possible, we would not have had a project in Quebec . It's as simple as that.

A quote from Benoit Charette, Quebec Minister of the Environment, in an interview with La Presse

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ELSELL ON NEWS: Donald Trump big winner of Super Tuesday election day< p class="StyledBodyHtmlParagraph-sc-48221190-4 hnvfyV">Promoters like Northvolt are being courted by several other states, while we are in a race for decarbonization, added the minister.

Never has the government recognized so clearly that the need to move quickly had played a role in the change of rules for the battery sector.< /p>Open in full screen mode

The announcement with great fanfare of the factory project of the Swedish company Northvolt took place on September 28, 2023.< /p>

As of September 29, the day after the announcement of the largest manufacturing project in the history of Quebec, Radio-Canada revealed that the threshold for triggering an examination of the BAPE applicable to the manufacturing of batteries had just increased from 50,000 to 60,000 tons, while the gigafactory will produce 56,000 tons.

According to our sources, at the time, the Swedish battery manufacturer had lobbied the government to make the regulations more favorable to it, but the company and Quebec had denied.

In its mandate entered in the register of lobbyists, however, we read that Northvolt wanted to identify potential commercial and regulatory support that would allow it to establish itself in the province.

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The Northvolt industrial complex in Montérégie will be made up of three factories: one for manufacturing battery materials, one for assembly and one for recycling.

< em>La Presse also reveals that the Swedish company asked Quebec to modify a threshold which would have had the effect of subjecting part of its industrial complex to BAPE examination.

In February 2023, the government wanted to establish specific liability rules for the battery sector. For assembly plants, Quebec has chosen a threshold to move to BAPE at 30 gigawatt hours (GWh). However, 30 GWh is exactly the capacity of the Northvolt factory.

We suggested raising the threshold to 40 or 50 [GWh], the company admits for the first time, in the columns of The Press.

Finally, Quebec withdrew the proposed change and no liability threshold appears in the final version of the regulation, published in July.

We very quickly mentioned to the government that our main constraint is one of time.

A quote from Laurent Therrien, director of public affairs for Northvolt in North America, in La Presse

Northvolt had registered with the register of lobbyists in May 2023. On May 31, Minister Benoit Charette met representatives of the Swedish company, without the interview appearing on his public agenda.

Despite our efforts, it was not possible to speak to Minister Charette or to representatives of Northvolt on Tuesday evening.

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Northvolt North America co-founder and CEO Paolo Cerruti , on the construction site of the future battery factory.

Last month, in an interview with Radio-Canada (New window), the CEO of Northvolt for North America, Paolo Cerruti said, regarding the change to the regulations to trigger a BAPE: We don't are for nothing, We learned about it afterwards.

He also said, in an interview with La Presse, that the modifications had occurred before [the] very first exchanges with Quebec.

Paolo Cerruti had made comments to Patrice Roy's Téléjournal (New window) which now take on their full meaning: There is a regulatory framework in which we fit. This regulatory framework was created by the government of Quebec, aware of this race against time.

We are in this race ourselves, reiterates today& #x27;today the minister, in La Presse. I am six years away from having to deliver extremely ambitious objectives in terms of reducing greenhouse gases (GHG). The electrification of automobiles, in which Northvolt is participating, contributes to achieving this target, he explains.

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The Ministers of the Economy and the Environment, Pierre Fitzgibbon and Benoit Charette, November 16, 2023

The BAPE does not only deal with issues related to nature. It also studies the impact of a project on traffic on the transportation network, housing, social services, etc.

To enable the company to quickly begin construction, without waiting to study the entire project, the environmental analysis was divided into several authorizations, an unusual practice according to an official and a former official at the Environment, consulted by Radio-Canada.

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The Northvolt land measures 171 hectares and is located straddling McMasterville and Saint-Basile-le-Grand.

For the moment, only the preparation of the land has been studied and approved, with the filling of 14 hectares of wetlands and the felling of thousands of trees. Authorization for the construction of the factory is currently under review, but has not yet been approved.

No applications have yet been filed by the Swedish company regarding plant operations, contaminant discharges, water sampling or hazardous materials management. Therefore, the Ministry of the Environment lacks information to respond to citizens' concerns.

The study of the GNL Québec project by the BAPE lasted 11 months. In the case of Northvolt, according to former BAPE vice-president Louis-Gilles Francoeur, an accelerated process could have been carried out in 7 months.

For months, officials from the Ministry of the Environment were specially mobilized to support Northvolt and help it receive its authorization as quickly as possible.

The company was so confident of obtaining the first green light in record time that it had planned to begin its work a month after submitting its authorization request, so that the deadline in the region to obtain the right to destroy wetlands is 15 months.

The first authorization, finally granted in four months, is contested before the courts.

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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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