Energy & Power
Hydro-Quebec’s clean energy corridor to New England targeted by First Nations
By Anthony Capkun
August 5, 2020 – The Innu First Nation of Pessamit reports it has joined forces with the Atikamekw First Nation of Wemotaci (both of Quebec) “to put an end to the stranglehold of the Quebec government and Hydro-Quebec on their traditional territories”.
Specifically, they demand compensation for Hydro-Quebec’s production facilities, reservoirs and transmission lines established “without their consent”, and are threatening to derail the utility’s New England Clean Energy Connect (NECEC) project unless they get it.
“We’re surprised by this press release [from the Innu First Nation of Pessamit],” says Gary Sutherland, spokesperson with Hydro-Quebec. “We have had recent exchanges with both communities, including between our CEO [Sophie Brochu] and the community about four weeks ago. Since then, we have made contact five times, but not received any call back.”
Sutherland explained that when Hydro-Quebec built its facilities in the 1950s and 1960s on land that is now disputed by these Indigenous groups, it had obtained all of the necessary permits to undertake construction and operate those facilities.
The NECEC project will deliver up to 1200 MW of hydropower from Quebec directly to Lewiston, Maine, displacing some 3 million metric tons of CO2 emissions from the region.
“Bringing this question to the U.S., where we are trying to deliver more clean energy in a region that uses large volumes of fossil fuel, is very detrimental to the efforts in New England and New York to decarbonize their economies. Our projects there are among the largest, clean energy initiatives underway today,” added Sutherland.
Pessamit argue that while hydropower developments have benefited Quebec’s citizens, “these successive and massive hydroelectric developments […] have never translated into a better quality of life for the members of the communities most directly and negatively impacted”.
Sutherland doesn’t quite agree with that statement.
“Over the past four decades, Hydro-Quebec has signed over 40 agreements which take into account their values, legal rights and interests, and cultural and environmental concerns. These agreements enable communities to actively participate in Hydro-Quebec’s projects and benefit from the resulting economic effects,” he said.
“We intend to come down directly on the revenues that the government and Hydro-Quebec expect to generate with their [NECEC] project […],” stated Chiefs René Simon of Pessamit and François Néashit of Wemotaci.
“[…] And if the government turns a deaf ear, Pessamit and Wemotaci will do their utmost to derail the project and ensure a resounding ‘No!’ to NECEC,” concludes the Pessamit and Wemotaci press release.
Sutherland is more optimistic, noting there is an upcoming election in the Pessamit community next month.
“We’ll be happy to continue our discussions with the person who will be elected […],” he said.