Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Quebec Power Exports Challenged SUPPLIER TO NEW ENGLAND

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Quebec Power Exports Challenged SUPPLIER TO NEW ENGLAND

Article excerpt

A RISING controversy over one of the world's largest hydroelectric projects could affect power supplies in the six New England states.

Cree Indians, backed by environmental advocacy groups in Canada and the United States, charge that a delicate habitat and the native way of life were devastated by the diversion of rivers and flooding of land in northern Quebec's James Bay territory.

They have vowed to prevent Hydro-Quebec, the provincial utility, from developing their region's remaining hydropower potential. Even a partial success will bear on how much electricity Quebec has to export to the US.

Hydro-Quebec flatly denies some claimed environmental impacts and has spent millions of dollars to mitigate other admittedly severe ones. On the other hand, even some environmentalists say that the hydropower projects are a lesser evil than the alternatives: nuclear or fossil fuel-powered generating plants.

The battle is raging in court and in the media, and exports are one point of contention. Cree spokesmen argue that these sales lead to projects that otherwise wouldn't be needed.

"These are facilities that would be built later anyway - whether we export or not," counters Jacques Guevremont, executive vice president for external markets at Hydro-Quebec. He cites projections indicating that by 2006 Quebec will need 40 percent more power than today.

In addition, Mr. Guevremont says, 10 years of exports have brought in $5 billion, helping to finance new construction and keeping rates in Quebec 10 percent lower than otherwise. (Montreal pays under half as much as Boston for electricity and one-third what New York pays.)

From the sidelines, Hydro-Quebec's US customers favor continued exports. "We have an energy partnership in place that both Quebec and New England feel is beneficial," says William Sheperdson, a spokesman for the New England Power Pool in Holyoke, Mass. …

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