Lafarge SA has joined two non-profit groups in mounting a legal challenge against a Quebec cabinet minister’s authorization of the $1 billion McInnis Cement plant to be built in the province’s Gaspé region, reports the Financial Post.
The company, together with the Centre Québécois du droit de l’Environnement and Environnement Vert-Plus Inc., has filed a motion for judicial review asking the Quebec Superior Court to overturn a decision by David Heurtel, Quebec’s environment minister, authorizing construction of the McInnis cement plant in Port-Daniel-Gascons.
The plaintiffs argue Heurtel “exceeded his jurisdiction” by giving the controversial project a green light in June without it being subjected to an environmental impact assessment and review. They are seeking a full environmental review to take place by the province’s Bureau d’Audiences publiques sur l’environnement (BAPE). Heurtel states the cement project is not subject to a BAPE review because it was launched in 1995, before the law was changed to require automatic review for large-scale industrial projects. He pledged the project will be tracked rigorously.
“There is an approval process outlined in provincial legislation that all companies must follow,” Lafarge spokesman Regan Watts said in an emailed statement. “It appears as though in serving the interest of accelerating this project, the approval for these permits may have been issued in violation of the government’s own laws and potentially put the health of the environment at risk.” The plaintiffs state the cement plant will generate an estimated 10 percent of all of Quebec’s industrial greenhouse gas emissions when it’s up and running, making an environmental review essential.
According to its legal motion, even if the promoters had filed all the required information and documents in support of their project before the law was changed, which they maintain wasn’t done, “the simple fact remains that the current project would have to be subjected to the environmental impact assessment and review procedure.”
The plaintiffs state McInnis is now pitching plans for up to 2.2 million metric tons of cement at the plant, double the original capacity. McInnis plans to ship the cement by boat to customers largely on the U.S. eastern seaboard.
“It’s important that we shed light on the approval process of this project,” said Michel Bélanger, a Montreal lawyer representing the non-profits in the case. The environment ministry “exceeded its jurisdiction” in concluding the 1995 project and the one authorized in 2014 are one and the same, he said.
This is the latest development in a lingering battle between proponents of the cement facility, who argue that it will bring much-needed jobs and investment to a distressed area, and critics who say the government shouldn’t be supporting one project in an industry already in oversupply. U.S. lawmakers, including U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), have voiced serious concerns about the project, charging it may violate trade rules.