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Lafarge joins challenge of new Quebec cement plant permits

Richard Gilbert
Lafarge joins challenge of new Quebec cement plant permits

One of Canada’s largest suppliers of building materials has joined two environmental groups to launch a legal challenge in Quebec Superior Court to revoke the permits for a cement plant under construction in Port-Daniel-Gascons.

"We believe that the Quebec Minister of the Environment has exceeded his authorities under provincial environmental law, said  Lafarge Canada’s director of communications and public affairs in Eastern Canada Regan Watts, in a statement.

"Permits were granted for the latest iteration of the project, as if this was the same project from 20 years ago. We believe these are two very different projects, given the difference in size and scope. We hope the courts will agree, that a full environmental is required for the new project."

Lafarge, Centre Quebecois du droit de l’environment and Environment Vert-Plus Inc. submitted a motion in Quebec Superior Court on Aug. 1 to institute proceedings for a judicial review, which would quash a certificate of authorization issued by the Quebec government to McInnis Cement Inc.

The certificate issued on June 3 by Quebec’s environment minister David Heurtel authorized McInnis to start construction of a $1.1-billion cement plant in Port-Daniel-Gascons.

The plaintiffs argue Heurtel exceeded his jurisdiction, by issuing a certificate of authorization, for a project that did not go through the environmental assessment and review process.

It is alleged the Provincial Environment Department contravened the Environment Quality Act, by approving a project using authorization certificates issued for the plant’s initial proposal in 1995.

For this reason, the plaintiffs want the project to undergo public environmental hearings.

"We believe the existing strict environmental standards should apply equally," said Watts. "We hope this case will be heard by the court by the end of August."

McInnis Cement was created when Beaudier Group acquired Cimbec Canada in December 2011.

According to court documents, Cimbec provided the provincial government with a project description for a cement plant in May 1995. The project was to be developed in three distinct stages: site preparation, construction and operation.

Cimbec Canada was issued a certificate of authorization on February 1996 to undertake work related to the preparation of the cement plant site, which included clearing, excavating, construction of an access road, removal of overburden and bedrock in the factory area, and the installation of two retention and sedimentation ponds.

At this time, a certificate of authorization was also issued to Cimbec Canada for construction of a marine terminal.

Subsequent amendments in October 1999, would authorize surface ditches, another conveyor belt, a change in the position of the conveyor belts, a change in the plan for primary excavation of the site, construction of an access road to the river and construction of a railway siding.

However, it would appear that no application for a certificate of authorization for the construction of a cement plant was submitted.

The cement plant project was interrupted from 1999 to 2008, due to insufficient financial and organizational resources within Cimbec.

Genivar was hired by McInnis to produce an environmental impact study in April 2013. A summary verion of the study was released to the public in November 2013.

The 1995 project description for the proposed cement plant had an annual capacity of up to 1 million metric tons. The updated environmental assessment reveals that the current plant wiill have an annual capacity of 2.2 million tons.

A second and third amendment to McInnis’ site preparation plan was issued in March and June 2014 respectively. The first certificate for construction was issued on June 3, 2014, by the minister of environment.

Construction of cement plants in Quebec have been required to go through the environmental impact assessment and review procedure since February 1996.

The plaintiffs say the new plant will produce 2,515 metric tons of carbon dioxide each year, which is 10 per cent of all such emissions for the whole of the Quebec industrial sector.

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