Port of Quebec joins chorus demanding province delay easing limits on nickel emissions

·2 min read
The Quebec City Port and adjacent Limoilou neighbourhood already have the highest atmospheric concentration of nickel in all of Canada — a carcinogenic metal in high concentrations.  (Port of Quebec - image credit)
The Quebec City Port and adjacent Limoilou neighbourhood already have the highest atmospheric concentration of nickel in all of Canada — a carcinogenic metal in high concentrations. (Port of Quebec - image credit)

The Port of Quebec is demanding the CAQ government postpone its plan to relax provincial regulations on nickel emissions, which is due to come into effect Thursday.

In a strongly-worded letter sent to Quebec Environment Minister Benoit Charette last night, Port of Quebec CEO Mario Girard said residents of the adjacent Quebec City neighbourhood of Limoilou are worried about the proposed increase in nickel allowed in the air.

"I invite you to listen to them and talk to them," Girard said.

The new regulation introduced last December would allow for five times the current level of nickel emissions in the air per day — 14 nanograms per cubic metre (ng/m³) to a maximum of 70 ng/m³.

The Quebec City Port and adjacent Limoilou neighbourhood already have the highest atmospheric concentration of nickel in all of Canada — a carcinogenic metal in high concentrations.

Marc-André Turgeon/Radio-Canada
Marc-André Turgeon/Radio-Canada

Nickel from mines in Northern Quebec is loaded onto ships at the port.

"Faced with these legitimate concerns, wouldn't it be desirable to take a few extra weeks to reassure these citizens? Where is the urgency?" Girard said.

The port is the latest body to raise objections to the new regulation, following opposition from regional health authorities, opposition parties at the National Assembly, Quebec City municipal council and citizens' groups.

Minister demands more transparency from port

Girard's letter came Wednesday, hours after Charette asked the port to be more transparent with the data from its six monitoring stations installed to track air quality.

"For some reason that I can't understand, they don't want to give us access to the data from those stations," Charette said, adding he contacted his counterpart in Ottawa to force the port to release the information.

Girard said he was surprised by Charette's comments, saying he never received a formal request to make this data available.

"I invite you to let me know which call, email or letter of request you are referring to," he said.

Girard said he is "very open to sharing the data from our stations," adding that the port and its partners comply with all the rules.

He urged the government to suspend the application of its new nickel standard until the committee of independent experts Charette appointed to provide an overview of the situation tables its report in December.

"We believe in this sector for the necessary energy transition in Quebec," Girard said, however he reiterated that the government must commit to reassuring citizens about the control measures that will be put in place.

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