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Northvolt land not 'Garden of Eden,' says Fitzgibbon

Photo: Olivier Zuida Le Devoir «C’est un terrain qui était contaminé, c’est un terrain où était la CIL, contaminé pendant des années. Parlez aux gens de Saint-Basile [-le-Grand] et de McMasterville, c’est un terrain qui était oublié», a affirmé le ministre Fitzgibbon.

The Minister of Economy and Energy, Pierre Fitzgibbon, declared Wednesday that the land on which the battery manufacturer Northvolt will set up, in Montérégie, is not the Garden of Eden.

Mr. Fitzgibbon made the statement after a report revealed that the Environment Ministry granted approval to the company last month, based on fewer scientific references than another analysis, which conducted to the refusal of a real estate project on the same land a few months earlier.

“This is not the Garden of Eden where Adam and Eve will bite the apple,” he declared in a press briefing. It’s land that was contaminated, it’s land where the CIL was, contaminated for years. Talk to the people of Saint-Basile [-le-Grand] and McMasterville, it’s an area that was forgotten. »

The Minister of the Environment, Benoit Charette, defended the integrity of the evaluation that was made by his ministry for the battery manufacturer's project, in which the Quebec government is injecting $3 billion.

According to the minister, Northvolt received authorization because its project preserves wetlands which constitute the habitat of the least bittern, a threatened bird species, unlike that of the real estate developer MC2.

“You shouldn’t compare oranges with apples,” he said. These are two different projects with a different location. »

Little bittern

In a press briefing, Mr. Charette refrained from using the wording used by Mr. Fitzgibbon to describe the state of the Northvolt land.

“This is land that has experienced very high industrial activity for decades, which is contaminated, it is a reality that cannot be denied,” he said.

According to the minister, even if the surface area of ​​the Northvolt project is larger than that of MC2 and it will destroy more wetlands, it is not located in the same location that was envisaged for the real estate project.

“The residential project threatened and anticipated the destruction, in particular, of the bittern,” he explained.

Find out more

  • BAPE would not be relevant for Northvolt, according to Pierre Fitzgibbon
  • Northvolt will be able to carry out major work without obtaining ministerial authorization
  • Green light for Northvolt to destroy an important site… where a real estate project had been refused
  • Video | What the site of the future Northvolt factory looks like ?

Reports by experts from the Ministry of the Environment produced as part of the analysis of the Northvolt project involving the destruction of wetlands and wooded areas, authorized on January 8, however noted the “high ecological value” of the site, which is “one of the rare remaining natural environments” in the region and one of the last that allows a link between terrestrial environments and the Richelieu River.

“There are places of interest on this land and we are largely preserving them with the project which is not the same [as MC2],” said Mr. Charette on Tuesday.

Prime Minister François Legault responded to the opposition which is calling for an examination by the Office of Public Hearings on the Environment (BAPE) for the Northvolt project.

“It’s not magic, the BAPE,” he said, highlighting the certifications to be obtained from the Ministry of the Environment.

Appearance of complacency

In a report published Wednesday, Radio-Canada establishes that the Ministry of the Environment refused the MC2 project based on 23 references, including 9 scientific articles were then omitted in the process which led to the authorization of Northvolt’s.

The interim Liberal leader, Marc Tanguay, denounced an appearance of complacency in this analysis.

“Was there political pressure?” he asked.

The Parti Québécois demanded that the Auditor General look into the Northvolt file.

“The analyst in the file, who is the same person, seems to have used two different scientific grids for the assessment of environmental impacts, which is extremely serious, which shakes the confidence we can have towards the Ministry of the Environment,” said MP Joël Arsenault.

With Alexandre Shields

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone 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 teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116