Québec Superior Court renders decisions on constitutional case involving Québec's Environment Quality Act

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On September 8, 2016 the Québec Superior Court rendered its judgment, Québec (Procureur général) c. IMTT-Québec inc., 2016 QCCS 849 (CanLII), in a constitutional case about whether certain provisions of the Environment Quality Act (“EQA”) applied in the territory of the Port of Québec (“QPA”) and to the tank terminal operations of IMTT-Québec (“IMTT”), one of the QPA's tenants. The court's ruling in favor of the QPA and IMTT established that all dispositions under the EQA and its regulations prescribing the obligation to obtain provincial authorization are constitutionally inoperative with regards to the QPA's activities and installations as they fall under exclusive federal jurisdiction.

In the past, IMTT had obtained certificates of authorization from the Québec environmental authorities for their tank terminal installations on land in the Port of Québec in accordance with the EQA. However, prior to the construction of seven new reservoirs in 2007 and 2008, IMTT only sought and obtained authorization from QPA and federal authorities but did not request authorization from the provincial authorities, citing that it fell under federal jurisdiction. IMTT subsequently received a compliance notification from the provincial authorities in September 2012.

The Attorney General of Québec (“AGQ”) sought an injunction to force IMTT to comply with the evaluation procedures set forth by the EQA and to cease usage of the seven reservoirs (and other equipment installed only with federal authorization in the meantime) until a certificate of authorization was provided by the provincial authorities. QPA and IMTT also initiated declaratory judgment procedures against the AGQ seeking a declaration that the relevant EQA provisions were either inapplicable or inoperative as far as the territory of the QPA and the operations of IMTT are concerned.

The court ultimately concluded that the QPA's and IMTT's activities and operations were all located on federal property and that they also fell under the federal constitutional domain of navigation, governed by the Canada Marine Act, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and related regulations.

McCarthy Tétrault advised the QPA and IMTT with a team led by Jean Lortie and included Jean-Philippe Mathieu, Dominique Amyot-Bilodeau, Justine Emmanuelle Dahl, Anne-Elisabeth Simard, as well as Sandra Lemieux and Jean-Sébastian Danis.