Canadian tribes threaten to sue over transmission corridor

MONTREAL (AP) — A group of Canadian tribes is threatening to sue to stop construction on the Canadian side of the border on a transmission corridor that aims to provide hydropower to the New England power grid.

The New England Clean Energy Connect calls for a 145-mile (233-kilometer) transmission line in Maine to bring electricity produced by Hydro-Quebec to the New England grid. But it also requires 64 miles (103 kilometers) of new transmission lines in Quebec.

If the plan isn’t scuttled, then the First Nations intend to sue in provincial court. The five tribes, comprised of the Anishnabeg, Atikamekw and Innu nations, represent about 7,000 people, Maine Public reported.

The Canadian transmission line would not cross tribal land, but the First Nations contend that more than a third of the electricity will be produced from dams on land the tribes never ceded to the Canadian government.

To meet the U.S. needs, Hydro-Quebec will likely further stress ecosystems that the tribes depend on for sustenance, said Lucien Wabanonik, spokesperson for the tribes.

“We’re saying ‘enough is enough’ and you need to respect the rights of our peoples,’” Wabanonik said.

Hydro-Quebec spokesperson Lynn St-Laurent says the transmission line is hundreds of kilometers from tribal lands and the electricity will come from existing facilities for which there will be no operational changes.

“Electricity exports will not affect the operating limits that have already been authorized for each of Hydro-Quebec’s power generating facilities,” St-Laurent said in a statement.

Furthermore, she noted that the First Nations’ concerns have been addressed during the permitting process at the provincial and federal level.

Nonetheless, the utility wants to continue a dialogue. “One of Hydro-Quebec’s key objectives is to maintain long-term, mutually beneficial relationships with Indigenous communities and nations,” she said.


This story has been updated to correct the spelling of one of the First Nations. It is not Atilamekw, it is Atikamekw.