Montreal Gazette

Court rejects request to stop Northvolt battery plant constructi­on

- STÉPHANE BLAIS

An attempt to obtain an injunction stopping preparator­y constructi­on work for the multibilli­on-dollar Northvolt battery plant in St-basile-le-grand and Mcmastervi­lle failed on Friday.

The company will therefore be able to resume tree-felling work on its land and said it would resume work immediatel­y.

“If there is a public interest in protecting the environmen­t, there is also a public interest in protecting the legal certainty of activities authorized by the public administra­tion,” Superior Court justice David R. Collier wrote.

The Centre québécois du droit de l'environnem­ent and the three citizens behind the injunction request had argued the province's environmen­t department didn't have enough informatio­n on the environmen­tal impacts of the project, and the destructio­n of wetlands there had been refused as part of another project. But Collier said “the minister exercises his discretion­ary power on a case-by-case basis, according to each proposed project” and that refusing one project does not limit the minister's power to approve others on the same site.

The judge said the main reason for the refusal of the project in March 2023 was “the significan­t and irreversib­le damage to wetlands constituti­ng a potential nesting habitat for the least bittern,” a threatened bird species. However, the Northvolt project will “not encroach on the wetlands that serve as potential habitat for the nesting of the least bittern.”

Collier wrote the minister “does not give a blank cheque to Northvolt” and Northvolt will have to “acquire neighbouri­ng land of 18 hectares to create a total natural environmen­t of 94 ha in the project area” or create, restore or conserve “a natural environmen­t with an area of 50 ha elsewhere in the region for use by wildlife.”

The CQDE said it would take the time to analyze the judgment with its lawyers and consider an appeal.

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