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Quebec premier says environmental groups should 'applaud' battery plant project

Premier François Legault has said that environmental groups should "applaud" Swedish company Northvolt's battery plant, even though the project would not be subject to an assessment by the Bureau d'audiences publiques sur l'environnement (BAPE).

Legault announced on Thursday, alongside Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, that the two levels of government would invest $7.3 billion to build the battery plant in the Montérégie region, in Saint-Basile-le-Grand and McMasterville.

However, according to Radio-Canada, the Northvolt plant may not be subject to a BAPE assessment, since its production capacity would be 56,000 metric tonnes.

Last July, the regulation respecting the environmental impact assessment and review of certain projects was amended so that battery plants producing 60,000 metric tonnes or less would not have to undergo a BAPE assessment.

Asked about this at a press scrum on Friday, Legault said that "all environmental rules will be respected" when the Northvolt plant is set up.

"I think that all environmental groups should applaud this extraordinary project for the environment," said the premier. "This is a plant that is excellent for the environment, and all the environmental rules will be respected."

The announcement had already raised fears in the Montérégie region on Thursday, when a 700-name petition was lodged with McMasterville town council to block the project. The petitioners fear that the plant will generate noise and pollution.

With information from Stéphane Rolland, The Canadian Press

This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on Sept. 29, 2023.   

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