Northvolt will be subject to BAPE, but once the factory is operational

Only part of the Northvolt industrial megaproject should be subject to review by the Office of Public Hearings on the Environment (BAPE), but only once the plant is built and operational. Therefore, the environmental assessment will not take into account the destruction of the natural environments of the site, which is home to a rich biodiversity.

The Ministry of the Environment, Combating Climate Change, Wildlife and Parks (MELCCFP) has not yet granted Northvolt the necessary permits to destroy the wetlands where the factory will be built, once the deforestation is complete. The ministry has not announced whether the analysis of the file presented by the multinational has been completed.

However, the minister responsible for the MELCCFP, Benoit Charette, announced in an interview with Radio-Canada that only one phase of the industrial project will be the subject of an examination by the BAPE, which normally must be preceded by the realization of an impact study of the project carried out according to criteria determined by the ministry.

According to what Northvolt indicated on Friday at dutythis is the third phase of the project, that of “battery recycling”, which is only scheduled to come into operation in 2028.

This means that the two phases above, namely those involving the “cell assembly” of car batteries and the “manufacture of active cathode material” would not be subject to the BAPE examination.

Specifically, the multinational will therefore be able to advance in various stages of its project, including the construction of the factory, without going through the environmental assessment procedure normally provided for in Quebec for large-scale industrial projects. This assessment would have made it possible to analyze the environmental, social and economic impacts of the project.

Minister Charette’s office and the MELCCFP had not responded to our questions at the time of writing.

Rules changed

In a press release issued Friday morning around 8:00 a.m., Northvolt said it welcomed the MELCCFP’s decision. However, this Friday at noon the ministry had not yet announced it. “This decision is the result of a rigorous assessment of Northvolt Six’s industrial and manufacturing processes by the ministry,” according to the company. That analysis was not available Friday afternoon.

Therefore, the first phases of the project, which aim to establish the Northvolt project on the site and bring the plant into operation, will not be subject to a BAPE assessment, as requested by experts and environmental groups.

It should be noted that the Legault government changed the rules that determine whether a project of this type is pending just weeks before the project was announced. As of now, battery factories are covered by a provision that sets the liability threshold at an annual production capacity of 60,000 metric tons. Northvolt anticipates a production of 56,000 tons, according to available information.

Natural environments

In an interview with Radio-Canada, Minister Benoit Charette also said he did not want to use the power provided by the legislation, which would allow him to recommend that the government submit the project to an environmental assessment before authorizing construction.

This means that the company will not carry out an impact study of the project, which is awaiting authorization from the MELCCFP to destroy the wetlands present on the site. In this preparatory phase, the deforestation of most of the land recently acquired thanks to a loan from Investissement Québec is also foreseen.

According to what he revealed the duty Last week, the works, which will destroy the habitats of endangered species, were planned even before the publicly-funded mega-project received the necessary environmental clearances.

The area of ​​fallow natural environments and wetlands that will be destroyed is about 40 hectares, or 400,000 square meters. It is one of the last natural environments of this type in the region, where the occupation of the territory has already caused the disappearance of practically all the natural environments.

The environments found on the Northvolt site serve as habitat for several dozen species, including some “threatened” or “endangered” that are protected by the federal government’s Species at Risk Act. At least 142 species of birds frequent the site, some of which are threatened.

All indications are, however, that the Trudeau government will not stop Northvolt from destroying the habitat of endangered species to build its mega-factory, even though those species are protected by federal law. The reason: it is private land.

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