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Petitions to initiate environmental assessments?

Photo: Jacques Boissinot La Presse canadienne La députée solidaire Alejandra Zaga Mendez à l'Assemblée nationale, le 23 mai dernier

After popular initiative referendums, citizen initiative “BAPEs”. Québec solidaire wants environmental assessments of major projects to be initiated through petitions, which would subject the controversial Northvolt project to an investigation by the Bureau d'audiences publique sur l'environnement (BAPE).

Solidarity MP Alejandra Zaga Mendez tabled a bill on Thursday at the Salon Bleu which would trigger a BAPE study process upon submission of a petition with at least 15,000 signatures for a project of “regional scope” and 40,000 signatures for a project of “national scope”.

Bill 597 thus aims to create “a right of citizen initiative” to force the holding of a public hearing of the BAPE. For the moment, only the Minister of the Environment can give a mandate to the consultation body. In the case of the controversial Northvolt battery assembly project, Minister Benoit Charette refused to do so, except for a portion of the project which will only happen after the construction of the gigafactory on the South Shore of Montreal .

A few weeks before granting a multi-billion dollar subsidy to the Swedish manufacturer, the Quebec government raised the battery manufacturing standard which automatically subjects a project to a BAPE evaluation.< /p>

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“There is an issue of trust, there is an issue of transparency when we change regulations and, suddenly, no project in the battery sector is submitted to the BAPE”, thundered Alejandra Zaga Mendez on Thursday. “The bill […] gives a tool to populations, to citizens who wish to have a BAPE. »

For an evaluation to be initiated at the national level, a petition with at least 40,000 signatories should contain at least 5,000 supports from three different regions, provides the legislative text. For a local file or project, it should consist of at least 7,500 signatures from the region concerned.

“An important project”

It is the government that has the prerogative to call opposition bills. There is therefore no guarantee that Ms. Zaga Mendez's proposal will be considered. The Minister of the Environment also emphasized in the House on Thursday that “no BAPE does not mean no environmental assessment”.

Questioned by Ms. Zaga Mendez during question period after the filing by solidarity worker Haroun Bouazzi of a petition requesting the holding of a BAPE in the Northvolt case, Mr. Charette justified the position of his government.

“It’s an important project for the environment and it’s an important project for the economy. Quebec can also boast of having one of the most established and strict environmental assessment processes in the world. Not only do we need these batteries to electrify our transportation and to decarbonize our economy, but these batteries are among the greenest currently produced,” he said.

To the solidarity elected official who accused him of “scraping” wetlands, the minister responded that the plant would preserve “the most precious parts of the land” and that there would be financial compensation “significant” $4.75 million.

Approximately 138,000 m2 of wetlands will be destroyed on Northvolt land, and several endangered species live there.

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