It’s confirmed: there will be more nickel in the air in Quebec

Despite criticism and opposition, the Government of Quebec is moving forward with its regulation which allows it to quintuple the quantities of nickel particles in the air daily on its territory.

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As of April 28, the Clean Air Regulation will come into force. The Council of Ministers recently issued the decree enacting it, confirming that the new standard for nickel in the air will increase to 70 nanograms per cubic meter (ng/m3) per day, as well as at 20 ng/m3 on average per year.

The current standard is 14 ng/m3 at all times.

However, many scientists, citizens of Limoilou and elsewhere opposed it. The mayor of Quebec, Bruno Marchand, also opposes the increase after hearing the explanations of experts from the government and regional public health.

“The Interdepartmental Nickel Standard Review Committee, whose work was tabled in March 2019, concluded that it was both beneficial and safe to modify the nickel standard prescribed by the purification of the atmosphere, in order to obtain an optimal solution on the economic, environmental and social levels”, pleads the government in its press release.

“The annual standard is the most widely used standard internationally, with several states not applying a daily standard.”

For several weeks, the Minister of the Environment Benoit Charette argued that the increase in the standard is based on data and scientific studies.

For the Legault government, nickel is “a key component for the electrification of transport” and for its development strategy for the battery sector for electric vehicles.

The disappointed mayor

The mayor of Quebec was quick to react to the decision of the Legault government. “The Minister’s decision is contrary to the position that the municipal council unanimously adopted on February 7. I certainly cannot be happy about it, ”said Bruno Marchand in a written statement.

For him, the government had a “duty” to explain how it can enforce the regulations. “I remind you that we have demonstrated that there are frequent overruns of the current standard and that they are never sanctioned. The Ministry of the Environment must now explain to citizens who are worried about their health how it will enforce the new standard. Until then, we will obviously collaborate with the ministry for the installation of the new measuring station that has been promised.

Parents from Limoilou are nevertheless very worried about the health of their children because the air quality in the area is affected by nickel dust.

In a 227-page brief made public recently, the City of Quebec is calling for “an exception” in order to be “excluded” from the application of the new standard.

Quebec refused this request.

No social acceptability

The opposition parties also reacted by strongly criticizing the decision of the CAQ government.

“How can François Legault talk about social acceptability for the tram when he doesn’t care about nickel? The Coalition Avenir Québec does not respect the Sustainable Development Act and the precautionary principle. Voters will remember it,” wrote Sylvain Gaudreault.

Liberal Isabelle Melançon believes that the Minister of the Environment, Benoit Charette, is no longer credible.

“We have a Minister of the Environment who is raising the nickel thresholds in the air, who is authorizing the discharge of mine tailings into lakes, who is saying that he does not need the BAPE for the 3rd link, who believes that the caquiste tunnel will reduce urban sprawl,” she said.

The Leader of the Official Opposition at Quebec City Hall, Claude Villeneuve, was also shocked yesterday. “Social acceptability is a great concept to brandish when you want to put conditions on the tramway, but it’s not a condition when it comes to the air quality of the people of Quebec.”

The government will find the downtown population on its way in the coming months, he believes. “Basically, we sacrifice the air of the people of Quebec to save jobs in Bécancour.” According to him, the question will be an electoral issue in the region this fall.

-With the collaboration of Stéphanie Martin

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