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Quebec prepares a regulation to reduce environmental assessment times

Photo: Jacques Boissinot The Canadian Press Benoit Charette reiterated Wednesday that the environmental assessment process can last up to 18 months in cases where the BAPE gets involved.

The Minister of the Environment, Benoit Charette, makes no secret of it: the deadlines imposed on Quebec to carry out a complete environmental assessment are too long. He will soon submit a draft regulation to reduce them.

The minister said this in a parliamentary committee on Wednesday when he was questioned about the Northvolt Six battery component factory project by solidarity MP Alejandra Zaga Mendez. “We are working to reduce these delays, both the part – when possible – which falls to the BAPE [the Office of public hearings on the environment], as well as the part which falls to the ministry,” he said. he said.

“So, in the coming weeks and months, we will come back with a draft regulation at this level. »

These comments from the minister echo the intentions he expressed at the beginning of March regarding Northvolt's “gigafactory” project in Montérégie. He then stated that he wanted to look “over the coming months […] on how to maintain our BAPEs”. According to Mr. Charette, with a BAPE study, “it is certain [that Northvolt] would have chosen another location to set up.”

Currently, the environmental assessment process can last up to 18 months, the CAQ elected official reiterated on Wednesday. “It could encourage promoters to go to other territories,” he said. Mr. Charette has not yet said what would constitute an acceptable deadline in his eyes. “When the changes are tabled, we will discuss them. We can be more efficient, essentially,” he simply told Devoir, later specifying that he “does not want to relax environmental rules.” .

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For a more efficient procedure

Questioned by PQ MP Joël Arseneau on Wednesday afternoon, the CAQ minister refused to exclude possible modifications to the BAPE, through legislation. However, he wanted to draw his counterpart's attention to the entire work. “The average delay of four months for the BAPE is not the longest delay in the procedure,” he said. It is the evaluation procedure [as a whole] which can take up to 18 months. »

To be “more efficient”, Quebec could therefore ask that “work be done in parallel”. “Currently, we are waiting for one stage to be completed before starting another,” exemplified Mr. Charette.

If she is not fundamentally opposed At the idea of ​​reviewing environmental assessment deadlines, Liberal MP Virginie Dufour questions the timing chosen by the CAQ government. “We can ask ourselves the question: who dictates environmental guidelines ? Is it the Ministry of the Economy ? Because [Minister Pierre] Fitzgibbon said, neither more nor less, that “it should be shorter,” she said in an interview with Le Devoir.

Alejandra Zaga Mendez, for her part, issues a warning to the minister: reviewing the functioning of the BAPE cannot mean that it will be used less. “Are we [revisiting the process] to benefit industries, or are we doing it to protect people and the environment?” she asked.

PQ member Joël Arseneau shares the minister's idea for the BAPE to “remain efficient”, but “above all wants it to remain objective and neutral”, he said on Wednesday.< /p>


The study of budgetary appropriations for the environment and the economy in the National Assembly has been the scene of a series of debates on Northvolt since the start of the week. Tuesday, at the same time as the Minister of the Economy, Pierre Fitzgibbon, affirmed that the project would have “no impact on Quebec's GHGs”, Mr. Charette maintained that “an interesting percentage” of gas reductions greenhouse effect (GHG) would be done in Quebec.

The two ministers again made discordant remarks on Wednesday. If Mr. Fitzgibbon had affirmed the day before that his ministry had “never been involved” in the discussions on the standards imposed on Northvolt, Mr. Charette maintained that the Economy had participated. “It is even common for several ministries to comment when there is a legislative or regulatory change,” said the Minister of the Environment on Wednesday.

Since last year, companies active in the battery sector have benefited from a more flexible annual production threshold than it was before, when these companies had to comply with standards on the manufacturing of chemical products. Northvolt will only have to submit to the BAPE once construction is completed.

The regulatory modification made last year by Quebec is currently the subject of a legal challenge by the Quebec Environmental Law Center.

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