Business leaders weigh in on Lower Churchill development
Debating the impact of the Lower Churchill development in Labrador is just as complex as the technology that could potentially make this project the cleanest source of energy in the world.
Oftentimes the social and economic factors of the environmental assessment process are secondary to environmental factors.
“It’s changing times, and I mean the community at large certainly understands now and certainly in the past, the importance of these issues,” says Labrador North Chamber of Commerce President Sterling Peyton.
“When you take it in terms of the historical and cultural attachment to this river. More and more people are concerned about the environmental position.”
During this stage of the project, which Mr. Peyton refers to as the “environmental period”, groups are getting a chance to voice their concerns.
He believes when all is said and done both the province, industry and stakeholders will get together to decide on the best plan of action.
This idea is something Innu Nation President David Ashini has been trying to get across to people. When Elizabeth Penashue was reported as saying that the Innu Nations elected leaders were not listening to the concerns of elders on the damming of the Lower Churchill, Mr. Ashini didn’t necessarily agree.
“The Innu Nation is not doing anything different with this administration than any other previous administration has done. We have applied for funding with Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro to create a consultation process in the communities of Sheshatshiu and Natuashish to hear what people feel about this project, and to provide information to them in terms of exactly what is happening and what is being proposed.” explains Mr. Ashini.
The consultation task force will accomplish this by setting up a newsletter to provide information to committee members, and also taking the time to meet with people on an individual basis and through group sessions.
With local and national environmental groups joining forces it will make things interesting.
Everybody by now has heard the Grand River keepers take on this issue. And the powerful National Sierra Club are certainly no strangers placing restrictions on Hydro dams across the country.
Former LNCC president Dave Hunt feels no matter what how many environmental groups form to contest this project; it will go ahead as planned, based on the fact that the economic need for this project in Labrador is to great to ignore.
I agree Mr.Hunt, that it will go ahead anyway because there are many ways of assuring that, including financial.
On the other hand I feel that Labrador will see very little of that power for economic needs. The NL Government & NL Hydro will ignore Labrador, like always---N.A.
Mr. Hunt understands these groups have every right to express their opinion, but he questions that if these projects really presented such a significant harm to the environment, then why are so many being developed across the country.
Currently right now in Canada there are approximately 69,000 Megawatts being produced through Hydroelectric generation projects, secondly only to China worldwide.
“Hydro energy is the most environmentally friendly project in the world. Yes, it’s going to dam 85 square kilometers of the river. I can understand that, but you know we’re in the 21st century, the whole country is looking for hydropower, especially environmentally friendly hydro power,” contends Mr. Hunt.
I agree. ---N.A.
Thirty years ago Mr. Hunt moved here with the purpose of wanting to see some development on the Lower Churchill.
“I’m going to be retiring soon, and I’d rather not be on the sidelines watching instead of being involved with trying to get this thing done. This has to be put in perspective. This project is not just to help all the people in Ontario and the United States. This project is in Labrador and is for the people of Labrador. "
I agree with the words in bold print.---N.A.
This fact was reiterated in a recent Labradorian interview Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro CEO Ed Martin had with the Labradorian.
“Any power that is being produced in Labrador, the needs of Labrador would be first, even if you were going to have most of that for export.
It would be a likely scenario, unless Labrador needed it, or an industrial development needed it. I can’t be clearer that Labrador would obviously be the preference,” says Mr. Martin.
So easy to say Mr.Hunt and Mr. Martin but if Labrador was to try and take what you guys are saying to the bank we would end up with the following situations. I have no doubt about that.
Remember when 5 Wing Goose wanted extra Hydro Power and the provincial government at the time said no. They said we would have to upgrade the power lines to Churchill Falls and we cannot afford to do that.
Remember when Alcoa wanted to put an alluminum industry in Labrador. The late Ben Michel walked out of the meetings with our provincial officials. Ben said later that our provincial government was to demanding on Alcoa. Our government wanted part of that Aluminum Industry built on the island of Newfoundland among other things. Ben said that there was no way that Alcoa could accept such an expensive undertaking because it would not be profitable for the company. So what did Alcoa do, they built their industry in Quebec where no such government road blocks were in place. Quebec was a more business friendly place for industry to opperate. Ben also said that we (Labrador Citizens) are dealing with the wrong people, we need to be dealing directly with industry, not with government.
The problem with these words uttered by Mr. Hunt and Mr. Martin are that road blocks can be set up in many ways, any time by government and Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro like as the examples above show.
It would be just a matter of preventing industries from starting or giving existing industries reasons why you can't help them. You fool the public and industries go away.
At the end of the day you can say to labradorians that you are getting all the Hydro Power you need and we are absolutely commited to giving you all of the Hydro Power you need forever.
On the other hand, Hydro and the provincial government will not replace Fossil Fuel driven power plants on the Labrador coast, with Hydro from Upper or Lower Churchill because the power lines would cost to much, but they will be building a power line to a much further away place, across the strait of Belle Isle to replace the Fossil Fuel driven power plant in Hollrood Newfoundland. According to Hydro they will be using 250 MW of power from Lower Churchill for that project.
Let me say a little about revenue and cost with the proposed Lower Churchill in mind.
From 2015 until eternity the Lower Churchill would generate Billions, upon Billions, upon Billions of Dollars for the provincial government and Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro.
To put power lines to Labrador Coastal communities and give all Labrador people low cost power for the destruction of their landmark river would be peanuts in comparison and that is the bottom line.
I know, Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro share holders would make less, but what the hell, "it's our river (Labrador's), our power", it's in our backyard. Take our deal or leave it!
----Critqued by: (N.A.)=Norman Andrews April 22, 2007
Mr. Hunt compares the environmental denial for this project to the anti-seal hunt group the International Fund for Animal Welfare.
“They don’t want for us to hunt seals, but we’re still-hunting them despite their boycotting efforts. It’s similar to that. I’m sure if you were to take a vote in Labrador, I think 90 per cent would want to see this project go ahead.”