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Environmental group challenges construction of Quebec cement plant

MONTREAL - An environmental group wants the construction of a Quebec cement plant stopped and submitted for review.

The group is asking Quebec Superior Court to annul an authorization certificate giving the green light to the cement factory in Port-Daniel, in the province's Gaspe region.

It wants the project to undergo public environmental hearings.

Michel Belanger, a spokesman for a group that specializes in environmental law, says a step was omitted in the approval process.

While the group is not yet seeking an injunction, he does not rule out a more forceful intervention if necessary.

Belanger says the group, the Centre quebecois du droit de l'environnement, is awaiting the company's reaction.

The $1-billion project, which is getting almost half of its financing through public funds, is expected to create 200 jobs.

The organization argues that the provincial Environment Department exceeded its jurisdiction in deeming sufficient the authorization certificates for the plant's initial project in 1995.

The environmental group says the 1995 project is half the size of the current effort.

The original project had an estimated output of one million tonnes while the current one would produce 2.2 million tonnes of cement.

"The project is more than double the size of the original," Belanger said Monday. "It is also believed it will use heavy oil as fuel, with the promise of change over time. This is completely different data from the first project."

The court filing points out that two authorization certificates were issued in 1995, one for the preparation of the site and the other for the construction of a marine terminal.

No certificate was ever issued for the construction of the plant because the idea was eventually abandoned, the group argues. It also noted the Environment Act requires public consultations before an authorization certificate is issued for construction.

The demand for the review also said the Environment Department itself had said further consultations are "desirable" and had raised concerns that the plant alone would produce nearly 10 per cent of the total greenhouse gas emissions for the entire industrial sector.

The court challenge is supported by an environmental group in the Gaspe as well as Lafarge Canada, a competitor of the group behind the Port-Daniel project.

The demand will be heard in Quebec Superior Court on Aug. 28.

The Canadian Press

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