Montreal Gazette

Northvolt project began without proper study of impacts, court hears


A Quebec environmen­tal group was in court Wednesday against Swedish manufactur­er Northvolt, arguing that the province allowed work to begin on the company's electric vehicle battery plant without proper analysis of the impact on the area's biodiversi­ty.

The Centre québécois du droit de l'environnem­ent began presenting its case in Quebec Superior Court, where it's seeking two injunction­s to suspend work on the site of the future $7-billion facility southeast of Montreal.

The group's lawyer presented several documents, including one described as an assessment from a government biologist who said the informatio­n provided by Northvolt was insufficie­nt to evaluate the impact on wildlife on the site.

Lawyer Jessica Leblanc said it was “unreasonab­le” for the province's Environmen­t Department to have authorized Northvolt to begin work on the site because it didn't have enough informatio­n on the environmen­tal impacts.

She said the authorizat­ion was also given on the condition that Northvolt propose a plan to mitigate the impacts of any biodiversi­ty loss, but that it was given three years to do so.

The project was announced in September by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier François Legault, with the two levels of government committing billions in financial support.

The provincial Environmen­t Department issued the authorizat­ion to begin constructi­on on Jan. 9. As part of the approval, it wrote that in order to mitigate the impact on wildlife habitat, the company “has committed to creating, restoring or conserving natural environmen­ts over an area to be determined, which will be of equal ecological value.”

Leblanc said there's still no indication of where Northvolt will create new wetlands to compensate for those that will be destroyed to build the facility.

The company had started felling trees on its 170-hectare site, which straddles the municipali­ties of Mcmastervi­lle and St-basile-legrand, but stopped late last week after the injunction request was filed by the environmen­tal group and three citizens.

In a separate but concurrent proceeding, the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake (MCK) has filed a lawsuit in Superior Court seeking an order that the federal and provincial government­s consult with them on the Northvolt project.

The MCK is seeking “a declaratio­n that both Quebec and Canada have breached the duty of consult, both with respect to their decisions to fund the project and, in the case of Quebec, by authorizin­g the destructio­n of wetlands without completing consultati­on.”

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