The cancellation of the Laurentia deep water terminal “a difficult decision – but a good one”
The federal government has sunk a $ 775 million deep-water container terminal project in Quebec City that is expected to create thousands of construction jobs and reduce greenhouse gases throughout the supply chain.
The project, called Laurentia, would have been the greenest deep-water container terminal in North America and, in three years, provided the fastest and most cost-effective river access to North American markets by opening a new maritime highway between the port of Quebec and Southeast Asia.
However, Federal Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson recently issued a statement stating that “the significant adverse environmental effects that the designated project is likely to cause are not justified in the circumstances”.
The Quebec Port Authority (APQ) had been working on the proposal for nearly six years. The project was referred to the Federal Cabinet for decision after the Canadian Impact Assessment Agency (IAAC) decided that two of the 22 environmental issues studied would have negative effects.
The IAAC had concluded that the project was likely to have significant adverse environmental effects on fish and fish habitat, in particular the striped bass population, air quality and human health, socio-economic conditions and current use of lands and resources for traditional purposes. by indigenous peoples.
APQ officials were confident a ruling would confirm that the port’s proposed measures to mitigate the effects were sufficient to satisfy Cabinet, but on June 29, Wilkinson delivered the verdict.
The President and CEO of the Port of Quebec, Mario Girard, said he was disappointed with the decision and an in-depth analysis of the federal government’s decision will be carried out over the coming months to assess the port’s future growth. The decision does not prevent the APQ from submitting new project proposals.
“We are obviously very disappointed with this result,” said Girard. “It is unfortunate that we have not been able to reconcile the opinions of our experts with those of experts from Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada, particularly with regard to the striped bass.
“We remain convinced that there were viable solutions and that Laurentia was a fundamentally good project, both for the economy and for the environment. But today we must accept the verdict of the federal authorities and look to the future.
The port had proposed to extend the existing wharf line to the east by 610 meters in order to operate a deep water terminal dedicated to containerized general cargo. The 31.7 hectare project would have included the construction of a new berth and retaining dyke that would allow the development of an additional 17 hectares of coastal space, as well as the construction of railways and road access.
The APQ said in a statement that the terminal project was designed to meet the highest environmental standards with the greenest and most advanced technologies in the market and innovative initiatives that would have significantly reduced the impacts of the project.
Laurentia would also have allowed an overall reduction in GHGs of 84,000 tonnes per year over the entire logistics chain, including seven million kilometers of trucking less on Quebec roads alone, the APQ press release indicates. Ultra-efficient electric and hybrid equipment would have been used at the terminal.
Girard said that the port’s two trading partners, CN and Hutchison, as well as the Government of Quebec and the Huron-Wendat Nation, share the belief in the fundamental value of the project and have given it great support.
The port took a number of measures to protect the environment during the construction phase of the project, including strict requirements that bidding contractors should use heavy equipment with engines that emit less contaminants and keep the site watered. to prevent dust from entering neighboring neighborhoods. Trucks would also be required to operate at reduced speeds and equipment would be cleaned frequently.
To protect the marine ecosystem, the port reportedly required contractors to use materials free of aggregates of less than 10 millimeters, confine infill work with dykes, and use air bubble screens to limit the introduction of suspended matter into fish habitats.
The port is committed to carrying out a carbon neutral project in the construction and operation phases by working with electric or hybrid trucks and construction equipment that use innovative technologies. A study of the air quality risks associated with the project also concluded that it would have an insignificant and negligible impact on the health risks resulting from air emissions of gaseous and particulate pollutants.
However, after a rigorous review, the IAAC and Cabinet found that the measures were not sufficient. Cabinet decided that the significant potential direct and cumulative adverse environmental effects are not justified in the circumstances.
“The Impact Assessment Agency of Canada conducted a comprehensive environmental assessment which identified the possibility of significant adverse environmental effects on a number of components associated with the Project, many of which would be irreversible,” said Wilkinson . “The Government of Canada must make decisions based on the best scientific evidence available while balancing economic and environmental considerations.
“It was a difficult decision, but the right one as we seek to grow the economy and protect the environment for future generations.”