United Counties of Prescott and Russell (UCPR) council has endorsed a resolution approved by Champlain Township council which requests a completely new provincial Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) into the proposed Colacem cement plant, which would be located beside the company’s existing quarry on Highway 17 near L’Orignal. 

The resolution – approved by Champlain  council on September 9 – asks the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP) to rescind the Environmental Compliance Approvals (ECA) it had granted for the plant and undertake a new EIA, based on the combined operations of the cement plant and adjacent quarry. The previous EIA, which led to the compliance approvals being issued, was based only upon the operations of the cement plant.  

On April 12, the Ontario Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT), now known as the Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT), ruled against the citizens’ group Action Champlain’s appeal of a 2017 decision by UCPR council to grant an Official Plan Amendment to Colacem to build the plant. At the same time, the LPAT ruled in favour of Colacem’s appeal of a 2017 decision by Champlain council to not grant the Zoning By-law Amendment required for the plant to be constructed. A subsequent attempt by Action Champlain to appeal the LPAT ruling was unsuccessful. 

At the October 27 UCPR council meeting, Champlain Mayor Normand Riopel declared a conflict of interest, because he owns land adjacent to the site of the quarry and proposed cement plant. Riopel did not participate in the discussion, or vote on supporting the Champlain resolution and left the meeting for the time it was being addressed by council. 

La Nation Mayor François St-Amour initially wanted to only receive the correspondence from Champlain Township and take no further action. Russell Township Mayor Pierre Leroux disagreed and expressed support for Champlain’s request. 

“When we’re talking about the environment, it’s the ministry’s responsibility,” Leroux said. “The whole issue we had in the past was a planning issue. It was not an issue in regard to the environment.” 

Hawkesbury Mayor Paula Assaly added her support for Leroux. 

“It’s a slippery slope when the counties start supporting to rescind environmental assessments,” said Clarence-Rockand Mayor Mario Zanth. 

Director of Planning and Forestry Louis Prévost noted Colacem’s requests and studies were submitted directly to the MECP and not to municipal governments.  

“The company obtained the certificate of authorization based on the studies,” Prévost said. “If you have any doubts, we could have the company present and explain exactly what the approval consists of.”

Warden Stéphane Sarrazin said Colacem submitted 14 studies to the ministry. 

Leroux said supporting Champlain’s resolution was just about the UCPR sending a letter of support to Champlain: “If we take the decision as the position we don’t want to support Champlain, then we’re sending a message that we have no wish to support the municipality in asking the ministry to double-check its figures.” 

“It’s simply about the ministry looking at the situation and nothing else,” said Assaly. 

Zanth said he understands there is opposition to the cement plant, but the studies have already been done.  

“All it’s going to do is redo another assessment. Is it just to delay everything? What’s the goal?” 

“I am against this. We have a process in place for a reason,” Zanth added. “The assessment was given and that’s it. It’s finished.”

La Nation Mayor St-Amour asked for a registered vote. He and Clarence-Rockland Mayor Zanth voted against supporting the Champlain resolution, while the other four mayors voted in favour of supporting it.