The mechanism is complex, but Camille Cloutier, lawyer at the Quebec Environmental Law Center (CQDE), summarizes the spirit of the approach. “It’s to ensure that the population has the opportunity to participate in an examination of the environmental impacts of a project,” she says. When the promoter of a project must undergo an examination by the BAPE, he must prepare an impact study submitted to the Ministry of the Environment. If the document is deemed “admissible”, we enter a period where public consultations can be held. This is when the public and organizations can intervene.

A company can offer a BAPE exam and the government can require it. Otherwise, it is the Regulation relating to the evaluation and examination of the environmental impacts of certain projects which decides. Without fanfare, Quebec changed it last July. For a factory that manufactures battery materials – where chemicals are handled in particular – the liability ceiling has been raised to a maximum annual production of 60,000 metric tons. The threshold was 50,000 tonnes previously. The cathode production portion of the Northvolt complex can reach 56,000 metric tons, if the plant operates every day of the year. The company therefore benefits from the modification of the regulations. “This is an example of a legal regime put in place to favor an industry,” deplores Me Cloutier.

In principle, no. The Bureau transmits its recommendation to the government, which decides. He can decide to go against the advice of the BAPE. In 2022, for example, Quebec authorized the company Ore de fer Québec to fill lakes with residue from its Bloom Lake iron mine, on the North Shore. The decision aroused anger and disbelief among environmental defenders.

“Indeed, the Office does not dictate the results of the decision, but it exerts political pressure,” underlines the CQDE lawyer. For citizens, the BAPE remains one of the only ways to make themselves heard when projects raise concerns. »

At a press scrum in Repentigny on Friday, Prime Minister François Legault confirmed that his government would not require an examination of the BAPE, a process that takes place over several months. “It doesn’t apply in this case, but we will respect the environmental rules,” he said, without offering more details. I think all environmental groups should applaud this extraordinary environmental project. » Northvolt anticipates that work on the land which overlaps the municipalities of Saint-Basile-le-Grand and McMasterville will begin by the end of the year. This deadline could be delayed if the Office puts its two cents in. In an interview on Radio-Canada radio, the Minister of Economy, Innovation and Energy, Pierre Fitzgibbon, for his part suggested that “pieces of the project” from Northvolt could “perhaps » be the subject of an environmental procedure, without offering a concrete example.

They did not miss the opportunity to criticize the Legault government for what they consider to be a lack of transparency. On the social network At a press briefing at the National Assembly, the leader of the Parti Québécois, Paul St-Pierre Plamondon, was more nuanced. He welcomes investments in a sector that can generate economic benefits in Quebec, with a caveat. “If this is […] one of the biggest investments by the Quebec government in a long time, why aren’t we playing fair? “, asked the leader of the PQ.