Last update:
2021-07-21

Champlain Hudson Power Express, Quebec, Canada

The Champlain Hudson Power Express is a proposed 333-mile long hydropower transmission line that brings energy from Quebec to power New York City. However, the creation of new dams has negative health impacts on Canadian indigenous communities.


Description:

On February 23rd, 2010, Transmission Developers Inc. (TDI) announced the idea for the Champlain Hudson Power Express (CHPE). The CHPE is a proposed 333 mile long high voltage submarine power cable that links 1 billion watts of hydropower from Canada to New York City [2]. The sudden need for hydropower in New York City comes from Governor Cuomo’s efforts to build a greener climate. In July 2019, Cuomo signed the New York State Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act into a law [1]. This law requires that 70% of New York’s electricity is generated by renewable energy by 2030 [1]. The CHPE proposal also comes as a result of the 2017 decision to close Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant in Buchanan, NY in order to further invest in renewable energy [1].

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Champlain Hudson Power Express, Quebec, Canada
Country:Canada
State or province:Quebec
Location of conflict:Clinton, Washington, Saratoga, Schenectady, Albany, Greene, and Rockland counties
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Infrastructure and Built Environment
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Pollution related to transport (spills, dust, emissions)
Dams and water distribution conflicts
Transport infrastructure networks (roads, railways, hydroways, canals and pipelines)
Specific commodities:Electricity
Land
Carbon offsets
Water
Project Details and Actors
Project details

In the 10 years since the Champlain Hudson Power Express was first proposed, Transmission Developers Inc. (TDI) has created a formal plan for the 333 mile transition line, stretching from the Hertel substation in La Prairie, Quebec, to Astoria, Queens [11]. The hydropower would travel down New York State, underground in both terrestrial and aquatic areas. A lot of the line’s route will travel below the Hudson River and Lake Champlain, which poses its own potential environmental impacts [2].

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Project area:86,246.6 hectares stretching between the US-Canadian Border and Astoria, Queens NY
Level of Investment:$3,000,000,000
Type of populationSemi-urban
Affected Population:3,200 people from Innu Nation
Start of the conflict:23/02/2010
Company names or state enterprises:Transmission Developers Inc. (TDI) from United States of America - TDI is the developer of the Champlain Hudson Power Express. This company has developed the plan for the CHPE by looking into factors such as the route, environment, safety, and all other logistics.
Relevant government actors:US Department of Energy
New York State Governors Office
US Army Corps of Engineers
US Fish and Wildlife Service
NYS Department of Environmental Conservation
International and Finance InstitutionsBlackstone Group LP from United States of America - Blackstone Group is one of the main funders of Transmission Developers Inc., and therefore one of the main funders of the Champlain Hudson Power Express.
HydroQuebec from Canada - HydroQuebec is partnering with Transmission Developers Inc. to generate the hydroelectricity needed for the Champlain Hudson Power Express. In their deal, HydroQuebec is providing New York with 1,000 MW of energy. To meet their demand, HydroQuebec is planning on creating more dams , which will cause flooding and negatively impact the surrounding environment and the Innu Nation.
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Center for Biological Diversity https://www.biologicaldiversity.org/, North American Megadam Resistance Alliance http://northeastmegadamresistance.org/,
Riverkeeper https://www.riverkeeper.org/,
Sierra Club https://atlantic2.sierraclub.org/content/stop-chpe-no-need-import-canadian-electricity-1200-miles-away
Innu Nation of Labrador
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityLOW (some local organising)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Social movements
Recreational users
Local scientists/professionals
Innu Nation
Forms of mobilization:Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Impacts
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Soil erosion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Noise pollution
Health ImpactsPotential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Displacement, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Loss of livelihood, Violations of human rights
Outcome
Project StatusPlanned (decision to go ahead eg EIA undertaken, etc)
Conflict outcome / response:Application of existing regulations
Development of alternatives:One of the main alternatives to the CHPE is investing in clean, local energy sources. Instead of relying on hydropower that would require new dams to be created, investing in solar and wind projects could be a more sustainable energy investment. New York City does have enough resources to create clean and renewable energy sources within the state, and is instead relying on Canada [7]. Another alternative that was cited in the official CHPE Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) in 2014 was the "No Action Alternative," where the project would be cancelled entirely [10]. This solution was not widely considered, especially because of new pressure to quickly invest in more clean energy to comply with Governor Cuomo’s New York State Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act. The other proposed alternative from the EIS is the issuance of a Presidential Permit from the Department of Energy to authorize construction, operation and maintenance [10].
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:In this situation, environmental justice was not served. Despite the threats to the health of the Innu Nation and environmental effects throughout Quebec and New York, Transmission Developers Inc. has no plans to postpone construction. TDI has acquired permits from the US Army Corps of Engineers, New York State, and the US Department of Energy [7]. They have the support of Governor Cuomo, and their plans to begin construction in 2021 still stand. TDI's website for the Champlain Power Hudson Express has claimed that they have carefully planned the route of the transmission line in order to have minimal environmental affects. However, this doesn't help the Innu Nation who feel as though this project is going underway without their consent [8]. Despite any environmental protection promises that TDI can make in construction, creating new dams is fundamental to provide hydropower for the CHPE, and this will pollute the water and food sources of the Innu Nation with methylmercury. TDI has modified parts of their original route to accommodate for environmental concerns, but is is impossible to provide the energy needed for the CHPE without negative impacts to the Innu Nation, and this has not been addressed by TDI.
Sources & Materials
Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

[1] Riverkeeper statement regarding the Champlain Hudson Power Express. (2020, August 25)
[click to view]

[2] New York: Champlain Hudson Power Express (CHPE). (2020, October 16) North American Mega dam Resistance's statement about the CHPE
[click to view]

[3] NAMRAs-Reponse-to-Governor-Cuomo-May-27-1.pdf. (2020, May 27). North American Megdam Resistance Alliance formal opposition to the CHPE.
[click to view]

[4] Champlain Hudson Power Express. (2020, April 21). The official website for the CHPE with details on the project, location, finances, environmental reassurances, etc.
[click to view]

[5] Burkhardt, L. (2018, March 13). Keep Canadian hydropower out, focus on New York sources: View. Lohud article opposing the CHPE
[click to view]

[6] Ellis, T. (2020, July 12). Letter: Champlain Hudson Power Express would be an environmental disaster. Times Union article providing environmental arguments against the CHPE
[click to view]

[7] Cruz, D. (2020, August 16). New York's Hydropower Plan Stirs Concerns Over Impact on Waterways. Explains the history and logistics of the CHPE and includes interview quotes from John Lipscomb of Riverkeeper and Jennifer Laird-White from TDI
[click to view]

[8] Center for Biological Diversity. (2020, October 08). Regulators Warned of Champlain Hudson Power Express Project's Environmental Impact. Formal notice letter from the Center for Biological Diversity and other environmental organizations to the Department of Energy over their failure to address environmental impacts from the CHPE.
[click to view]

[9] Welcome to the Web Site of the Environmental Impact Statement for the Champlain Hudson Power Express Project. (n.d.). Link to environmental impact statement and timeline from the CHPE website
[click to view]

[10] Final Champlain Hudson Power Express Transmission Line Project Environmental Impact Statement. (2014, August). Official environmental impact statement written by several government agencies. Discusses the possible negatives that the CHPE can have on the environment and proposes alternatives.
[click to view]

[11] Hertel - New York Interconnection. (n.d.). HydroQuebec website describing the logistics of the CHPE and the locations in Canada.
[click to view]

[12] Eadie, F. R. (2015, March 12). Stop CHPE; No need to import Canadian electricity from 1,200 miles away. Sierra Club CHPE opposition letter.
[click to view]

Other documents

HydroQuebec Dam Map This map posted on HydroQuebec's website shows the power transmission lines and substations in Quebec. https://www.hydroquebec.com/data/projets/interconnexion-hertel-new-york/pdf/study-area.pdf
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Jessica Plotnick, Skidmore College [email protected]
Last update21/07/2021
Comments
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