AutosQuebec court sides with electric car battery factory against environmental objections

Quebec court sides with electric car battery factory against environmental objections

The factory in Canada is supposed to impress.
The factory in Canada is supposed to impress.
Images source: © Press materials | Northvolt

11:41 AM EST, January 27, 2024

Last week, the Canadian environmental organization Centre québécois du droit de l'environnement (CQDE) contested the approval of the construction of the CAD 7 billion battery factory by Northvolt. Environmentalists emphasized the conservation importance of the forest where the factory is planned. The reaction from these nature enthusiasts wasn't immediate, as the agreement for the factory's construction was signed last September, and the Swedish company began felling trees in January. The case ended up in court.

The CQDE submitted a request to halt the felling of trees. In reaction, the investor voluntarily paused operations while awaiting the court's decision. The accusations lodged by the environmentalists included threats to 173 acres of arable land, two protected bird species, and adjacent swamps. Nevertheless, the court was not swayed. It was determined that the CQDE failed to present any evidence to suggest that granting Northvolt the environmental approval was a mistake. On top of this, the company also plans to invest 4.7 million CAD in rehabilitating the swamps in another area, plant 24,000 trees to compensate for the nearly 9,000 trees cut down around the future factory site, and construct a battery recycling plant.

Shortly after the court's ruling, work to prepare the land for the battery factory's construction resumed. Northvolt invested over $34 million CAD in a facility located roughly 18.6 miles from Montreal.

However, a favorable court decision does not automatically mean that companies investing in e-mobility will have an easy path in Canada. While the country is an appealing prospect because of its abundant resources needed for the production of electric cars, there is a notable hurdle. Many resource-rich territories are owned by Native Americans. Presently, laws in Quebec and Ontario permit extraction even when met with resistance from these communities, yet a recent court ruling in British Columbia declared this to be a violation of indigenous inhabitants' rights within these territories.

This ruling could be seen as a precedent and may potentially link production volumes to the decisions of Native American communities. These communities might not always be open to changes. As reported on Wednesday, Native American chiefs in Ontario requested a one-year freeze on processing extraction consent applications. As it turns out, business expansion can sometimes face unexpected hurdles.

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