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Energy for Export and the Romaine River Hydroelectric Complex in Québec

by admin ~ November 20th, 2008

The Bureau d’audiences publiques sur l’environment du Québec (BAPE) will soon begin Phase II of its public consultations on the Romaine Hydroelectric Complex Project. Located in the Lower North Coast of Québec, the Romaine River flows 300 km from the border with Labrador to the St. Lawrence Seaway. Hydro-Québec is a public utility, and the proposed hydroelectric complex seeks to expand existing energy capacity for Provincial and industrial uses, and also generate electricity for export to lucrative energy markets in Vermont and New York. The proposed development includes four separate generating stations (producing 1,550 MW of energy), 200 km of access roads, a 500 km transmission corridor, and impoundments covering 279 km of the river.

Several groups are mounting an opposition to the project (Fondation Rivières, Alliance Romaine, and others), and raise concerns about the renewable energy portfolio of Hydro Québec, economic justifications for the project, adequate protections for wildlife and game, impact to endangered woodland caribou populations, loss of habitat for Atlantic Salmon, long term mercury contamination, greenhouse gas emissions, and impact to the Mingan Archipelago National Park Reserve at the mouth of the river.

Three public hearings are scheduled for December, and the final report is due in February. The Bureau d’audiences publiques sur l’environment du Québec (BAPE) made its announcement of Phase II consultations on November 10. The deadline for oral submissions to the Panel expired four days later on November 14, and written submissions can be made by November 27, 2008.

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3 Responses to Energy for Export and the Romaine River Hydroelectric Complex in Québec

  1. The Big Wild

    It’s a massive project, but a resulting effect of today’s go green movement. No simple answer here. Nevertheless, this increased industrial growth stretching ever northward seems rather untenable. We at The Big Wild believe that at least half of Canada should be protected.

    Thoughts?

    I would be interested in your Northern opinion?

    Raphael – the Big Wild Co-ordinator

  2. admin

    Hi Raphael. Thanks for your comment. You are right, Hydro Québec has been fairly successful branding their products as “green.” But there are a number of long term environmental and social consequences from mega projects such as this, which create impoundments along much of the Romaine, that need to be understood and debated in an open and transparent way (so that Hydro Québec, as a public utility, is accountable to its mandate and also to consumers of energy in neighboring Provinces and across the border in New York and Vermont). These include greenhouse gas emissions from turbines and impoundments (particularly methane), harm to endangered woodland caribou populations from access roads and high powered transmission lines, long-term mercury contamination in the St. Lawrence Seaway and in wild fish stocks, loss of Atlantic Salmon habitat, loss of tourism potential on Québec’s wild rivers, impact to Mingan Archipelago National Park Reserve, and negotiations concerning historical claims in the area, regional benefit sharing, and land use by the Innu (and others).

    In the long term, I would like to see Canada and Hydro Québec develop a wild rivers conservation policy (within the context of a National Energy Plan). But that may surely be an ambitious approach within the context of Canadian Federalism, and the regional autonomy and self-control of energy sectors in Québec and Alberta. At a minimum, I would like to see a full consideration of alternatives before the development of a mega project like this is undertaken. I am not against development, we need energy, industry has needs and requirements to sustain jobs and regional economies, but diverse stakeholders need to be at the table, have a voice in the process, and understand the trade-offs of important long term land use planning and energy decisions. I think a lot of ground can be made up with smaller projects and energy conservation initiatives: wind power, solar thermal, run of the river developments, geothermal, bio fuels, energy efficient design, and more. The greatest source of energy is the energy we don’t use in our homes (or can replace with conservation efforts). And the potential for job creation in alternatives, small scale renewable energy, and in energy efficiency is literally unexplored in the current environment of hydro mega-projects and cheap electricity. I believe in a balance, but only if the public becomes more actively engaged in the process: hence this blog, and my efforts to raise awareness about some of these issues.

  3. Northern Waterways Energy for Export and the Romaine River | Portable Greenhouse

    [...] Thanks for your comment you are right hydro quebec has been fairly successful these include greenhouse gas emissions from turbines and impoundments in the current environment of hydro mega projects and cheap electricity copyright 2008 northern waterways [...]