How long does a BAPE assessment take?

Are Quebec’s environmental assessment processes as long as the Minister of the Environment claims? Would the Northvolt project have been delayed by at least 18 months by a review by the Office of Public Hearings on the Environment (BAPE)? Nothing is less sure. Explanations.

A BAPE evaluation lasts four months, at most, provides for the Environmental Quality Act. But this is only one stage of the government procedure, which could not have exceeded 13 months in the case of Northvolt.

“This is the maximum, there is nothing that prevents the Ministry of the Environment from taking less time, from putting more people on the analysis of the file”, underlines Professor Paule Halley, holder of the Chair Research Institute of Canada in Environmental Law from Laval University.

Projects with a high level of environmental risk are subject, when they exceed certain thresholds, to Regulation relating to the evaluation and examination of the environmental impacts of certain projects (REEIE), which may include the BAPE.

There are 38 categories, including the manufacture of energy storage equipment, energy transport, mining activities, waste disposal and even the manufacture of explosives.

When such a project is submitted, the Minister of the Environment has 15 days to indicate to the initiator what the environmental impact study must contain, and a public consultation on what the study should approach is carried out in parallel, for 30 days. The project initiator then takes the time he wants to carry out this study.

It is when the impact study is submitted that the countdown begins: the REEIE imposes on the minister a maximum period of 13 or 18 months, depending on the category of project, to recommend to the Council of Ministers to accept or refuse the project.

In the case of Northvolt, the period would have been 13 months, at most.

This is a “governmental” deadline, which excludes any period during which the Ministry awaits responses from the project initiator.

The Ministry must first check the admissibility of the impact study, to ensure that the issues are well targeted and that the required information is included. When the impact study is deemed admissible, the Ministry undertakes an analysis of the project, consulting the ministries and government agencies concerned.

At the same time, a 30-day public information period is conducted by the project initiator. This is when a BAPE review can be requested by the public, and only one request is required.

If a request for examination is made, the BAPE has 20 days to recommend to the minister what form of mandate it should be given. The most common is the public hearing; but there is also “targeted consultation”, when the issues are more circumscribed; or even “mediation”, between the initiator and the interested parties – the latter is rarely used.

The BAPE has four months to carry out its examination and submit its report, if it is a public hearing; three months, if it is a targeted consultation; or two months, if it involves mediation.


Paule Halley, holder of the Canada Research Chair in Environmental Law at Laval University

The BAPE would not have derailed the (Northvolt) project, that’s not what takes time in the procedure.

Paule Halley, holder of the Canada Research Chair in Environmental Law at Laval University

In rare cases, the BAPE can request an extension of time, which has only happened six times out of the approximately 250 public hearings held since 1990, four of which were commissions of inquiry carried out jointly with the federal body of environmental assessment.

After receiving the BAPE report, the minister then has 15 days to make it public.

And the other projects?

Projects that are not subject to the REEIE, or that are, but do not exceed the thresholds set in the regulation, such as the Northvolt project, are evaluated as part of the ministerial authorization process, under which the Ministry requires environmental studies from the initiator targeting certain specific aspects, but no overall impact study. This process does not provide for a maximum deadline, but the Ministry aims to render a decision within 75 working days. However, the same project may require different ministerial authorizations, as in the case of Northvolt, which is advancing its project in stages. These delays must therefore be added up to compare them to the duration of an overall evaluation. On the other hand, this procedure allows the initiator to begin his work without having to wait for the complete analysis of his project.

Too late for Northvolt?

It is not too late for the Northvolt project to be examined by the BAPE, because the Environmental Quality Act provides that the government may exceptionally subject a project that would otherwise have escaped it. Quebec has until Friday, March 22, to act, since it must do so within three months following the filing of an authorization request, and Northvolt filed its request for “construction of a giga-battery production factory”. The Swedish multinational has already filed thousands of pages of documents with the Ministry, so it could quickly produce an environmental impact study and start the process, estimates Patrick Bonin, head of Greenpeace Canada’s climate-energy campaign, who believes it is realistic that a BAPE report will be produced by the end of the summer. “They have already received millions in public funds, I can’t believe they don’t have (the resources) to produce such a study,” he said. There is no reason to flout environmental democracy and the processes in place in Quebec. »

Some examples of environmental assessment

Cell n redevelopment projecto 6 at the Stablex processing center in Blainville

  • Reception of the impact study: December 8, 2020
  • Start of the BAPE public hearing: May 9, 2023
  • Submission of the BAPE report: September 8, 2023
  • Government decision: expected
  • Total time between submission of the impact study and the BAPE report: 33 months (including 21 attributable to the initiator, 5 to the Ministry and 4 to the BAPE)

Hydro-Québec Hertel-New York interconnection line project

  • Reception of the impact study: March 12, 2022
  • Start of the targeted BAPE consultation: December 13, 2022
  • Submission of the BAPE report: 1er March 2023
  • Government decision: authorization
  • Total time between submission of the impact study and the BAPE report: less than 12 months (including 4 attributable to the initiator, 2 to the Ministry and 4 to the BAPE)

Project to increase the storage capacity of mine tailings and waste rock at the Bloom Lake iron mine

  • Reception of the impact study: January 28, 2014
  • Start of the BAPE public hearing: October 20, 2020
  • Submission of the BAPE report: February 18, 2021
  • Government decision: authorization*
  • Total time between submission of the impact study and the BAPE report: 7 years and 1 month (including 5 years and 7 months attributable to the initiator, 9 months to the Ministry and 4 months to the BAPE)

* This project, authorized by the Legault government despite a very unfavorable opinion from the BAPE, must also obtain authorization from the federal government to move forward.

Read the article “Ottawa has the power to say no to Quebec”


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