January 12, 2022
  • January 12, 2022

Leong: Quebec tastes the pain of Alberta

By on November 9, 2021 0

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This is a cross-border energy project intended to provide reliable Canadian power to impatient customers in the United States.

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All players have taken the necessary steps with the appropriate regulatory bodies for a number of years. He even got the necessary green light from the White House.

With all the dotted I’s and crossed T’s, upgrades to existing infrastructure and building extensions have started in earnest.

But now, after millions of dollars and several months in the process, the job suddenly faces political hurdles that threaten to derail the project completely.

You might think I remembered the problems faced by a number of pipeline projects.

But as unlikely as it sounds, the problem this time centers around the New England Clean Energy Connect project, a multi-million dollar power line intended to bring hydroelectric power from Quebec to Massachusetts.

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Last week, residents of Maine voted in a referendum to reject the power line, even though construction was long approved and well underway.

With a turnout of around a third of eligible voters, some 60% voted against the project, according to local media reports .

The result came despite vigorous campaigning by project developers, who argued that the transmission line would give New England residents access to clean Canadian hydroelectric power to replace more intensive sources of electricity. carbon.

Clean Energy Connect has reportedly helped a number of governments in the Northeastern United States commit to drastically reducing their carbon emissions as part of their efforts to limit the impact of human activity on the climate of the United States. Earth.

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Opponents of the project are as unlikely a group as the problem itself: much of their campaign has been funded by those with vested interests in local oil and nuclear power plants. who spent US $ 20 million to influence voters . These financial heavyweights were joined by people opposed to the alleged environmental damage the project would cause to Maine’s forests.

Strange bedfellows indeed.

Construction continues as this puzzling mess makes its way through the US legal system.

One of the project’s US partners, Massachusetts-based Avangrid, argued the referendum question was unconstitutional because it sought to revoke approvals granted in an appropriate manner.

Avangrid CEO Dennis Arriola also said at a panel discussion at an energy conference last week the inhabitants of Maine had been “misinformed” by the political campaign , according to the Boston Globe.

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“The narrative has been manipulated, frankly, by some characters who will be on the losing side of the energy transition,” he said.

The drama is being watched closely in Quebec, where the province’s electric utility, Hydro-Quebec, is expected to reap a huge boon from the energy flowing south through the transmission line through Maine.

“We carried out this project rigorously, with a step-by-step approach”, Quebec Energy Minister Jonatan Julien said: as reported in the Montreal Gazette, our sister newspaper. “It is clear that a referendum which retroactively calls into question all the permits we have obtained with our partners is unusual.

“The project must go ahead because we have all the authorizations to proceed. We are not going to demobilize our resources. We are on the ground and we are working.

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So here we have an extremely useful and necessary energy project that is expected to benefit millions of people on both sides of the Canada-U.S. Border, under construction after obtaining the approval of all relevant authorities following a thorough review. .

And yet somehow it has been possible, thanks to some bizarre political and legal maneuvers, to throw a wrench in the work, with the potential to cause long and costly delays along the way.

Albertans have seen this film before.

I’m sure the Clean Energy Connect supporters in Quebec and New England are hoping their side of the story has a happier ending.

[email protected]
On Twitter: @RickyLeongYYC

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