Subsidized Quebec EV battery plant triggers concerns of potential environmental impacts

Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) is reviewing a taxpayer-funded electric auto battery factory in Quebec that is owned by Northvolt due to its potential environmental impacts.

The agency examines the risk of wetland destruction and fish habitat harm. Despite Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s previous endorsement of the Northvolt plant as “the world’s cleanest,” concerns have been raised about the potential environmental impacts of the planned Northvolt project.

In a Dec. 15 note, the DFO indicated that it was waiting for a formal application from Northvolt, a Swedish battery manufacturing giant, under the Fisheries Act. The department also revealed that the company did not provide a submission date.

Northvolt’s project has drawn attention to its potential environmental repercussions, particularly about the “discharge of factory effluent into areas inhabited by fish,” which is a matter governed by section 36.3 of Canada’s Fisheries Act.

In the note, the DFO claimed that it is working with Northvolt and other stakeholders, along with Indigenous groups to “ensure measures to protect the marine environment and Indigenous rights are in place. The department also claimed that the company already contacted Mohawk First Nations members.

The Northvolt project, which encompasses an area of about 171 hectares (423 acres), includes plans for water intake and discharge systems. The DFO has started discussions with the company to make sure that it complies with regulations that were designed to protect fish and their habitats.

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However, the specifics of these environmental concerns, especially those about effluent, have not been fully elaborated.

In a statement, the DFO emphasized the importance of preserving Canada’s fish habitats for future generations. The DFO also mentioned its ongoing talks with Northvolt. The dialogue includes regular project management meetings and a request for a formal assessment of the plant’s impact on fish and fish habitats. (Related: Surveillance cameras from BANNED Chinese tech company allegedly installed in 50 Quebec cities and public facilities.)

Trudeau claims Northvolt EV plant “a win-win”

Trudeau first announced a $1.34 billion federal subsidy for the Northvolt factory on September 28, 2023, with production expected to begin in 2026.

The factory, which was built in Saint-Basile-le-Grand, Quebec, was praised for its allegedly environmentally friendly approach. Northvolt has also said that it produces some of the “greenest batteries in the world.”

The first phase of the Northvolt project, which is valued at $7 billion in total investment, will have an annual battery cell manufacturing capacity of up to 30 gigawatt hours (GWh). The project will also create up to 3,000 jobs in the area as the plant reaches its full production potential.

While there was no timeline provided for the second phase of the project, it is slated to double output.

Additionally, Quebec Premier Francois Legault said that for the next 50 years, a green economy will be crucial.

Despite the proposed benefits of the Northvolt EV battery plant, Quebec opposition parties are skeptical about the province’s significant investment in another multinational.

In a statement, Haroun Bouazzi, a Member of the National Assembly (MNA) for Maurice-Richard and an energy critic for Quebec Solidaire, explained that with public investments of $1.37 billion, “the [Legault] government must be transparent” because this investment includes financial risks for Quebecer taxpayers.

At the National Assembly, Liberal MNA Frederic Beauchemin, the Official Opposition’s economy critic, said he would wait before saying that the Northvolt project is a bad development strategy.

Beauchemin explained that both vision and long-term planning are important. While he’s not saying that the plan is bad news, he wants to see labor, housing and power “for it to be successful.” He also said the Legault government should be investing more in small- and medium-sized companies because they are crucial to maintaining Quebec’s smaller communities.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has said the project is ” a win-win-win – for workers, for communities and for the environment.”

But despite these green credentials, the PMO’s announcement did not discuss the project’s compliance with the Fisheries Act. The facility aims to focus on sustainability and will produce different battery components, such as materials from battery recycling.

Watch this clip from DW News about an electric vehicle believed to have caused a fire in a cargo ship carrying thousands of cars.

This video is from the What is happening channel on

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