Le Devoir (translated into English)
Hydro-Québec's promotional efforts for its transmission line project in Maine are not fading. The state-owned company has just raised the ceiling of its contract with the public relations firm Forbes Tate Partners to more than 920,000 Canadian dollars.
This energy corridor in Maine, which aims to export electricity to Massachusetts, is the subject of fierce contestation. He must find himself at the heart of a referendum next November, after a first failed referendum attempt last fall.
The contract notably provides for media monitoring, polls, research and “message development” to defend the interests of New England Clean Energy Connect (NECEC). Local organizers must also identify people or organizations in favor of the project and "encourage them to express their support", but without remuneration, it is specified.
The Washington-based firm also needs to track advertising spending. "We can see that opposition to this project, largely funded by competitors in the energy sector, especially oil and gas, is disseminating false information on the project and on Quebec hydroelectricity," says Lynn St. Laurent, strategic advisor for Hydro-Québec. This "opposition which does not budge", she says, convinced to continue the work of influence.
At least 8.5 million Canadian dollars have already been injected in 2020 by the Hydro-Quebec Maine Partnership committee, set up by the state corporation, according to The Canadian Press.
In parliamentary committee, Thursday afternoon, the CEO of Hydro-Quebec, Sophie Brochu, described the companies fueling the opposition to the project as "extraordinarily aggressive". "It is proven that the main antagonist of the construction project in Maine is funded up to 95% by the fossil energy companies who paid people $ 35 to go and collect signatures for a referendum," she argued.
Various critical fronts
After petition-signing campaigns and this announced referendum, a new sling is now being launched by far-right commentator Tucker Carlson. A star personality of Fox, he devoted the last episode of his weekly show to denouncing this project, which he describes as a " green energy scam ".
Mr. Carlson is angry with “foreign companies”, that is to say Hydro-Quebec, which he accuses of endangering “the largest forest in the United States”. The controversial host thus finds himself in a rare and strange alliance with environmentalist groups, he who denies climate change. He has previously stated that he spends all of his summers in the Maine area.
In Quebec, this energy corridor project is also contested by five aboriginal communities. A total of 103 kilometers of this transmission line will end up on this side of the border. "The Coalition of our five First Nations has formally notified the Canada Energy Regulator of its opposition to this project," wrote the Innu-Atikamekw-Anishinabeg Coalition last January.
The Canada Energy Regulator's decision will come "by the end of the spring," said Ms. St-Laurent on Thursday . Hydro-Quebec hopes to be able to transport hydroelectricity for 20 years to Massachusetts with the NECEC, a contract whose revenues are estimated at around US $ 10 billion. In the United States, work on the 233-kilometer route began in February.