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First Nations representatives express concern over hydropower transmission project

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Transmission Developers Inc.
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Champlain Hudson Power Express project brochure

The Champlain Hudson Power Express is a project to bring 1,250 megawatts of hydropower from Canada to New York City. The 339 miles of power lines would be placed on the bottom of lake and river beds or underground. Just before the New York Public Service Commission was scheduled to meet late last week to determine whether to issue the final permits, a group of indigenous peoples from Canada and the U.S. expressed concerns about the project.

The Champlain Hudson Power Express had received all other required permits and the state Public Service Commission approval was the final decision regarding construction of the transmission line between Quebec and New York City.

Representatives of First Nations in eastern Canada say the billions of dollars in subsidies New York state will pay for power from HydroQuebec will cause further damage to their traditional lands and culture.

Mistissini Cree William Nicholls does not believe HydroQuebec has the capacity with current dams to provide the power it plans to sell.

"They’re saying they’re not going to be building new dams or that. They can use existing power. My question is given not only the power that they’re trying to sell to New York, but the power that they’re trying to sell to Massachusetts, where are they going to get it from? Of course they’re going to be coming back into native lands because they don’t want to upset non-First Nations communities.”

Lac Simon Anishnabe Nation Councilor Lucien Wabanonik said the dams built by HydroQuebec have a direct effect on all First Nations.

“We still use the land. We still in our diet use the traditional food. First Nations have rights. In our eyes it’s a cultural genocide. That’s not right. They say it’s a green energy. We don’t believe that because the impacts on First Nations, on our people, and children and women are so major and we cannot call it green energy. We don’t have, we don’t benefit any of it this time. We never have.”

The day after the First Nations representatives met, the New York Public Service Commission discussed whether to issue the final permit for the Champlain Hudson Power Express.

Commissioner Tracy Edwards says the decision comes down to priorities.

“I’m not comfortable with continuing to spend ratepayer money on the same dirty fossil fuel results if there is an alternative before us. To do the same thing and continuing to approve the same rate cases in the same way and not put our priorities on this for a cleaner future, that’s what we need to be doing. Is it perfect? Absolutely not. I believe that this will definitely get better. But we’ve got to start. We’re never going to be able to have a cleaner New York if we are not moving forward.”

Reliability and rates is a key concern for Commissioner Diane Burman.

“If adopted we would be inexplicably imposing rate increases on ratepayers while not actually solving the critical need to transition our electrical system to be more reliable, resilient, affordable and sustainable for all New Yorkers. This is too costly to ratepayers and the Commission has not taken, in my opinion, sufficient steps to adequately and completely ensure the issues embedded in this matter are more fully vetted among us and that we seek to extract more definitive commitments and conditions while also lessening the burdens on ratepayers.”

The Public Service Commission approved the final permit for the Champlain Hudson Power Express on a 5-2 vote.

Construction is expected to be completed and power delivered to New York City by 2025.

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