ACTION ALERT: Tell the Department of Energy – Consider the Impacts of Northern Pass Hydropower!

Christophe Courchesne

This month, “Seeking the Current” wowed audiences across New Hampshire with the sublime beauty of Québec’s Romaine River – a wild, natural wonder that will essentially be destroyed by a new complex of hydropower projects, now under construction. This complex is only one part of Hydro-Québec’s ongoing building boom – the keystone of the Canadian utility’s aggressive strategy to increase exports to the United States. The film also showed filmgoers that there are better, cheaper alternatives to new hydropower, including wind, solar photovoltaic, solar hot water, biogas, and investments in energy efficiency.  If these alternatives were scaled up and put in place throughout the province, Québec could still export more power to the United States – but without constructing new dams and reservoirs.

During the discussions after the film (one of which you can watch here), we heard the same question again and again – what can we do here in New England? The filmmaker Nicolas Boisclair observed that Hydro-Quebec’s strategy relies on opening new “doors” to New England and other export markets – like the Northern Pass transmission project. That’s another reason why CLF sees the permitting process for Northern Pass as so important – it is our opportunity to scrutinize whether we should open the door and on what terms, given all the impacts of the Northern Pass transmission project and the new Canadian hydropower the project makes possible.  And there is still time for all of us to tell the lead federal permitting agency for Northern Pass – the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) – to do its job by fully considering the impacts of Canadian hydropower.

Understanding Northern Pass’s power source is fundamental to understanding Northern Pass, especially with the developers of the project touting the environmental benefits of Canadian hydropower at every opportunity. PSNH President Gary Long even has said “we wouldn’t be doing” Northern Pass if it didn’t provide a “greener, cleaner energy future.” But when it comes to scrutinizing all the impacts of that same hydropower in the permitting process, the developers change their tune, arguing that the impacts of Hydro-Québec’s strategy to build more hydropower projects and export more power to the northeastern United States are “beyond the reach of” federal law.

On this point, the developers are wrong. Federal law requires that all direct and indirect effects of the Northern Pass project be analyzed and considered as part of DOE’s environmental review. In the words of the Council on Environmental Quality – the office that oversees all federal environmental reviews – “agencies must include analysis of reasonably foreseeable transboundary effects of proposed actions in their analysis of proposed actions in the United States.” The impacts of hydropower in Canada – so stunningly documented in Seeking the Current and so much more worse for the climate than the misleading story Northern Pass developers like to tell – are “reasonably foreseeable” consequences of the Northern Pass project, and the Department of Energy must consider them, alongside all the potential impacts of building a large-scale transmission line through New Hampshire. CLF made this clear in our comments to DOE a year ago, but it is critical that DOE hear from as many voices as possible.

Please join CLF in calling on the Department of Energy to consider the impacts of Northern Pass hydropower in Canada.  With only a few clicks, you can take action here.

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