Montreal, October 5, 2023 – In view of the numerous public concerns and the risk of major
environmental issues surrounding the multinational Northvolt’s project to build a battery
plant in the Montérégie region, the Centre québécois du droit de l’environnement (Quebec
environment law centre, or CQDE) is encouraging the Minister of the Environment to
recommend that an environmental impact assessment and review procedure be initiated,
including hearings before the Bureau d’audiences publiques sur l’environnement (office of
public hearings on the environment, or BAPE).

The CQDE points out that the government may, on the recommendation of the Minister of
the Environment, make a project subject to a BAPE assessment. Even when a project is not
necessarily subject to such a review, it may be rendered so by government decision, under
certain circumstances. It’s clear that these conditions are met with Northvolt: the potential
environmental stakes are extremely high; the project will entail a new type of activity or a
new technology in Quebec; and public concerns justify it. So why dispense with a thorough
impact assessment?

Major environmental risks: the precautionary principle applies

With a project of this scale, which could involve a number of major environmental risks, the
CQDE reiterates the importance of favouring the precautionary principle, which aims to
ensure that measures are taken to avoid the risk of damage even when deleterious
outcomes are uncertain. On the site where the plant is to be built, 52 hectares of wetlands
of interest, 70 hectares of agricultural land, and 140 species of birds, some of precarious
status, have been identified and could be directly threatened by the project.

“While this would be the largest private manufacturing investment in Quebec’s history, the
precautionary principle should be applied, particularly to a new industry with which we have
little experience,” explains Camille Cloutier, a lawyer with the CQDE.

Public concerns: the need for informed discussion and a societal choice

In view of the social acceptability issues at stake, the CQDE strongly recommends that the
government not dispense with the BAPE, an essential tool to enable discussion, public
participation, and expert response, and thus ensure in-depth reflection on the impacts of
such a project.

“Quebecers should benefit from greater transparency on the ins and outs of this project
and its impacts on the environment, the territory, and our communities. We need to make a
societal choice, and the public must take part in the discussion,” asserts Caroline Poussier,
interim executive director of the CQDE.

“The important work of the BAPE, which has established its credibility and independence
over the past 45 years, would make it possible to gather data and involve the public,
elements that are currently lacking to make a truly informed decision,” adds Me Camille

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