Big Hydro: Changing Environmental Opposition

(Host) Last week in a festive ceremony, Vermont utilities and Hydro-Quebec signed a new power contract.

Vermont will buy up to one-quarter of its electricity from the provincial utility.

Just two decades ago, a power purchase from Canada would raise significant opposition over social and environmental issues.

But today – with climate change in the picture – the deal has faced almost no opposition.

As we open this week’s series on Big Hydro, VPR’s John Dillon tells us what changed.

(truck stop)

(Dillon) A truck stop in far northern Quebec may seem like an unlikely place to find an environmentalist and native rights activist. But Cree native Roger Orr is heading south on a family trip to Ottawa, and I’m heading north to take a look at some of the Hydro-Quebec projects. We’re both driving all night. So, we meet on the road early in the morning.

(Orr) “Wachiya! (Hello) We’re die hards, eh?”

(Dillon) Orr says hello in Cree to a friend. Orr now lives in the village of Nemaska, near the Rupert River. Last November, Hydro-Quebec closed giant steel gates on the Rupert and sent 70 percent of the river’s flow north to power a series of generating stations. It’s not the first time Orr has witnessed the life-changing power of Hydro-Quebec. He grew up in Ft. George, a village near James Bay that had to be abandoned by the Cree because of an earlier hydro project.

(Orr) “And so I remember the river before, and after. And the effects that it had on the environment, the river, and the people, also. And then so I lived it twice, eh? Up in Chisasibi where my hometown is, and then I moved inland to Nemaska. And there the rivers were still flowing, the Rupert River was still flowing freely and pristine. So I lived it twice, eh?”

(Dillon) Back in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, Cree activists like Roger Orr helped publicize the environmental and social impacts of the big dams.

full article)

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