Battery cell factory | The CQDE dismissed by the courts, Northvolt restarts its construction site

Quebec’s decision allowing Northvolt to cut down trees and encroach on wetlands on the land of its mega-cell factory was not “unreasonable”, rules the Superior Court of Quebec, which rejects the request The provisional injunction from the Quebec Environmental Law Center (CQDE) aimed at forcing the company to suspend its work.

In the wake of this decision rendered Friday by Judge David R. Collier, the company immediately announced the relaunch of its $7 billion project. Activities had been at a standstill for a week due to the legal proceedings.

“The plaintiffs have not succeeded in putting forward serious arguments allowing them to doubt, at first glance, the ministerial authorization and the municipal permit [de Saint-Basile-le-Grand] », writes the magistrate, in his 13-page judgment.

Additional delay would have been “fatal” for Northvolt and the “entire project” would have been “compromised”, argued the company’s lawyer, Nathalie-Anne Béliveau, on Wednesday during the hearings.

The CQDE alleged that the Ministry of the Environment, the Fight against Climate Change, Wildlife and Parks (MELCCFP) had given carte blanche to Northvolt by authorizing it since it did not have all the commitments in hand. of the company in terms of compensation for the loss of natural environments.

The promoter has three years ahead of him to present his plan, lamented the organization, which wanted to force Quebec to re-examine the granting of its authorization.

According to the magistrate, the hearing was able to allow the CQDE “to assess the terms of the agreement concluded between the Ministry and Northvolt”. In exchange for the green light from the MELCCFP, the young Swedish company has undertaken to “create”, “restore” or “preserve” natural environments over an area of ​​30 to 50 hectares – up to 90 football fields – in the region.

“The plaintiffs’ argument is far from demonstrating that the minister abdicates his responsibilities or exercises his discretion unreasonably by postponing the development of a wetland restoration plan until later,” writes Judge Collier, who nevertheless recognizes that the construction site will cause the “loss of a natural environment that is both rare and important for the environment of the region”.

Several repercussions

On the 170-hectare site which straddles Saint-Basile-le-Grand and McMasterville, the first phase of preparatory work involves the felling of approximately 14,000 living or dead trees. The construction site will notably affect 13 hectares of wetlands. The site – where the Canadian Industries Limited explosives factory was once located – is home, among other things, to a nesting area for the least bittern, a bird considered a vulnerable species whose presence has been detected three times since 2016.

In its request for an injunction, the CQDE recalled that a major real estate project had been rejected in the same location by Quebec because it “harmed the conservation of biodiversity”. These two cases are different, believes Judge Collier.

“The real estate project proposed by the developer Quartier MC2 would have had the effect of destroying 66% of the wetlands used by these small birds, an impact deemed unacceptable by the minister,” we can read. However, the work approved in the case of Northvolt does not provide for the destruction of the least bittern habitat. »

In addition, adds the magistrate, the discretionary power of the MELCCFP to grant or not authorizations is exercised on a “case by case” basis. Nothing prevents him from issuing an authorization on a site after having refused a project in the same place, notes the judge.

The CQDE also questioned the validity of the tree felling permit issued by Saint-Basile-le-Grand by asserting that the municipality had made its decision by making an erroneous interpretation of an “interim control regulation” of the Metropolitan Community of Montreal (CMM). Judge Collier considers that there “is no reason to intervene and suspend the permit” given that there is no “demonstration” that the City’s interpretation was “manifestly unreasonable or erroneous “.

Despite its disappointment, the CQDE has perhaps not said its last word. The organization could return to the charge with the filing of an interlocutory injunction after analyzing Judge Collier’s decision. The turn of events puts “a lot of pressure” on the CQDE to “act as quickly as possible,” admitted its lawyer, Marc Bishai.

What they said


“It is important to remember that to move forward, Northvolt had to rigorously and seriously demonstrate to experts from the MELCCFP and Saint-Basile-le-Grand that our project complied with the environmental regulations in force. We will return in the near future with additional information on the project […], but also on our information approach with the host community. »


“Serious concern remains. Unless the company and the government become aware of the importance in Quebec of public participation in the study of large industrial projects harming the environment and decide to have this project go through the BAPE, everything is in doubt. to believe that the destruction of sensitive natural environments will continue rapidly. »

The Minister of the Environment, Benoit Charette

“We will continue to defend this promising project for Quebec. We have one of the most rigorous environmental assessment frameworks in North America. The environmental analysis carried out by my department is no exception. »

François-Philippe Champagne, Federal Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry

“I very much respect people who express their point of view, obviously the court has ruled, but we must not lose sight of the fact that the objective of bringing Northvolt to us was to bring Quebec into the industry automobile of the 21ste century. I think we always have a duty to explain. I always take a step back in these questions, I say to myself: we have to explain. »

With Mylène Crête, The Press

Learn more

  • 2.75 billion
    Amounts offered by Quebec and Ottawa to finance the construction of the Northvolt Quebec factory

    the press

    4.6 billion
    Maximum amount of production subsidies offered to the company by the two levels of government

    the press

source site-55