Opponents of Maine’s largest hydroelectric project rally in Montreal, but will fail to stop it

As opponents of Quebec’s Quebecor Inc. plan for an electricity-exporting pipeline hold massive rallies in Montreal and Quebec City, opponents in Maine continue to gain support in the state. Gov. Paul LePage has signed…

Opponents of Maine’s largest hydroelectric project rally in Montreal, but will fail to stop it

As opponents of Quebec’s Quebecor Inc. plan for an electricity-exporting pipeline hold massive rallies in Montreal and Quebec City, opponents in Maine continue to gain support in the state.

Gov. Paul LePage has signed a bill from the state’s legislature that would give the project a green light, and the Maine Public Utilities Commission is set to issue a decision on the project on Tuesday.

A Hydro-Québec petition to build a $7 billion pipeline connecting the North and South Seas likely will go ahead as early as this week, following the recent signing of legislation from Maine lawmakers that allows it to proceed in the state.

A group opposing the pipeline, called the “Safe Energy Coalition,” reported that the Maine Supreme Court approved its challenge to the legislation on Thursday. The group hopes that the decision will put the brakes on the project, and has promised a massive opposition effort on Tuesday, when the PUC decides whether the project can go forward in Maine.

“From Portland to Portland, we see people out on the streets showing their support for our peaceful, non-violent protests and for the wisdom of asking our energy companies to pay their fair share,” the coalition said in a statement.

About 800,000 people live in Maine. Together, Maine and Quebec hold the third-largest population of Americans on Canada’s East Coast, after New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

Foes of the project are hoping to mobilize those numbers as the decision comes down in November.

On Friday, they held a rally in Montreal, but that was joined by about 25,000 opponents in Quebec City, where the Quebec legislature passed a law in June that would guarantee up to 80 percent of the project’s profit to be shared with residents and businesses of Quebec. Opponents of the bill say it shields Hydro-Québec from any risk that the project may pose to the province’s environment.

“We are saying to the Canadian government that this is ridiculous. It is not going to be here tomorrow,” Céline Paquin, co-founder of the Good Lakes Alliance, told La Presse before the Quebec City rally, referring to Maine.

She said opposition to the project in Maine reached a “critical mass” when state lawmakers approved LePage’s bill. “Our number is rising steadily daily,” she said.

British Columbia, where the pipeline’s route would cross, is also weighing opposition to the proposal.

“British Columbia is closely following the developments in Maine,” an energy minister for the province, Michelle Mungall, said in a statement to Quartz this week. “We welcome consultation on this project.”

The Maine legislature’s support for the project was not unexpected, LePage told reporters on Friday.

“It’s an argument we’ve had now for several years, and it’s about the continuing of civilization with our federal, provincial and municipal governments telling us the energy that we consume isn’t going to be produced elsewhere, and they’re going to put it in our state.”

Politicians from the other side of the aisle also expressed concern over the project.

“The Unite Weavers and Allied Trade Union believes that a pipeline must follow environmentally sound measures, and that the likelihood of this pipeline actually delivering reliable power is extremely low,” Keith Flett, the president of the Portland, Maine, chapter of the Unite Weavers and Allied Trade Union, said in a statement to AFP on Friday. “We are vehemently opposed to this plan and to our efforts to stop it.”

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