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Quebec Liberal leader urges Legault to launch environmental assessment in the battery sector

Northvolt injunction hearing resumes

Believing that the arrival of Northvolt is "basically good news," but that landing the factory project was "laborious," the Quebec Liberals are urging the Legault government to launch a generic environmental assessment (BAPE) on the battery sector.

In a letter sent Sunday to Premier François Legault, official opposition interim leader Marc Tanguay said that the period for requesting an environmental impact study by the Bureau d'audiences publique sur l'environnement (BAPE) for Northvolt has passed, and he urges Mr. Legault "not to reproduce the same mistakes in the future."

"For the economy, the environment, our SMEs and our regions, the success of the battery sector requires a generic BAPE. Your government must demonstrate greater rigor and transparency," the letter reads, a copy of which was sent to The Canadian Press.

In his letter, Tanguay maintains that a generic BAPE "should not be perceived as an inconvenient and harmful step."

"On the contrary, it is a collective meeting to define a respectful and optimal vision on the economic, environmental and social levels," he argues. "Ultimately, Mr. Legault, by responding favourably to our request, you will create the first winning condition for social acceptability."

According to Tanguay, a generic BAPE in the battery sector is "squarely within the mission" of the organization, based on the principles of the Sustainable Development Act, and "it can be done in a few months."

The organization has carried out 11 generic mandates since its creation in 1978, in particular on the "inventory and management of asbestos and asbestos mining residues" in 2020, according to the BAPE website.

"For us, the Quebec Liberals, the battery sector, we want it to work. But for it to work, we have to get Quebecers involved. And for that, it takes more transparency, rigor, it takes a vision," Tanguay argued in an interview. "In the Northvolt file, we understood, there will be no BAPE. That said, there is the concept of generic BAPE, in the battery sector. This is what we are asking. We must have collective reflection; we must have collective support for the multiple projects and (economic) opportunities that the battery sector represents."

The Liberal leader did not fail to throw a barb at Economy Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon, who, according to him, "manages this as he sees fit, on a small-time basis."

"Pierre Fitzgibbon cannot claim to have all the answers (...) He cannot talk about social acceptability by simply saying that Quebecers must change their attitude. There is a tool that we have given ourselves – the generic BAPE – which would have no negative impact on the progress of the Northvolt project," he said.

"It is up to Premier Legault to say, as a 'responsible government (...) we are going to ask for a generic BAPE,'" said Tanguay. "Because if we wait after Mr. Fitzbiggon and the current Minister of the Environment (Benoit Charette), we will never have one."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on March 24, 2024. Top Stories

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