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The Northvolt project does not worry Steven Guilbeault

Photo: Rafiq Maqbool Associated Press Canadian Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault speaking to journalists at COP28 in Dubai on December 12

Magdaline Boutros

January 19, 2024

  • Canada

Steven Guilbeault affirmed Friday that the construction of the Northvolt battery mega-factory in Saint-Basile-le-Grand, in Montérégie, did not worry him, recalling that every project has an impact on the environment.

“If you ask me, as a federal minister, if the Northvolt project worries me: no, it does not worry me,” declared the head of the Environment in Ottawa on the sidelines of an event which took place in Montreal. “It’s a major industrial project. We have done others, and there are others like that in the country. But it is a project which, in the long term, will lead to very significant ecological benefits for the entire country. »

Thursday, the Quebec Environmental Law Center (CQDE) filed a request for an injunction before the Superior Court of Quebec demanding an immediate halt to tree felling and destruction work wetlands on the site of the largest private industrial project in the history of Quebec.

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Minister Guilbeault did not want to comment on the current legal process. However, he recalled that no project receives unanimous support. “For someone to tell me that there is no social acceptability [for this project]… I have never seen any measures. It’s easy to use this notion [of social acceptability], which is a very vague, fuzzy and undefined notion, to say that the project should not be done,” he said.

The electrification of transport – to which the Northvolt factory will contribute by producing battery components for electric vehicles – represents a giant step in the fight against climate change, believes the federal elected official. “The electrification of transport is not the solution to climate change, but it is certainly one of the solutions,” he says. And those who claim that there are no benefits from switching, for example, from a gasoline car to an electric car are either misinformed or they are spreading misinformation. »

Faced with the emergency, it is necessary to accelerate the fight against climate change, reiterated Minister Guilbeault. “How can we speed up our processes without short-circuiting the necessary consultation ? […] That’s a bit like our societal challenge. »

Environmental assessments

The Legault government exempted the Northvolt project from the environmental assessment procedure generally imposed on large-scale industrial projects, as soon as the project was announced in September 2023.

Data obtained by Le Devoirfrom the Quebec Ministry of the Environment indicate the presence of 21 vulnerable or threatened species on the mega-factory site. And at least 142 species of birds, some of which are threatened, also frequent the 170-hectare site.

On the federal side, an evaluation by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada is underway “to see if federal laws should apply at the level of this project”, indicated Minister Guilbeault.

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