Hydro-Quebec Gears Up For Political Battle Over CMP's Proposed Transmission Line

Hydro-Quebec, the Canadian energy company poised to supply hydropower to a proposed transmission line through western Maine, is joining a campaign to defeat a referendum that could scuttle the $1 billion project at the ballot box next year.

The company’s relationship with the provincial government of Quebec could draw protests from project opponents who see it as a foreign attempt to influence an election.

However, the Hydro-Quebec effort appears to be legal because Maine election law does not restrict foreign entities from contributing to ballot committees and because federal laws barring contributions and expenditures from foreign nationals apply only to elections involving candidates, not referenda. 

The company in November formed a ballot question committee anticipating that opponents of the 145-mile project will succeed in putting the proposal on the 2020 ballot. The committee, Hydro-Quebec Maine Partnership, is the latest effort by the Canadian power giant to ensure that its controversial transmission line – opposed by many of the communities it would pass through – will come to fruition.  

The formation of the new committee also marks a more public-facing progression in the year-long lobbying campaign by Hydro-Quebec on behalf of its sole shareholder, the government of Quebec.

The relationship between the company and the provincial government will likely become the focus of increased scrutiny and has already prompted questions about previously unpublicized meetings held last year between Quebec officials and leadership in the Legislature, as well as with the administration of Democratic Gov. Janet Mills. 

That scrutiny stems from the intertwined financial fortunes of Hydro-Quebec and the provincial government as the company seeks to expand power exports to the U.S.  

Hydro-Quebec sent nearly $2.4 billion in dividends to the provincial government last year after netting $14.37 billion in revenue. Those earnings were driven in part by what the company calls “unprecedented” energy exports to the U.S. last year. Those exports, and dividends to the province, stand to increase if the Maine project, called the New England Clean Energy Connect, is approved.

In its financial report last year, Hydro-Quebec dubbed the project the “biggest sales contract in our history.” But when asked to explain a series of meetings earlier this year with Gov. Mills, her staff and Republican and Democratic leaders in the Legislature, Marie-Claude Francoeur, the New England delegate from the Quebec government, told Maine Public Radio that her job was not to advocate for Hydro-Quebec or the project. 

“I am not a lobbyist for Hydro-Quebec,” said Francoeur, adding that her role is to maintain regional agreements with the Quebec government. 

Francoeur was responding to disclosures made by the Quebec government through the U.S. Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA. The law requires agents working on behalf of foreign governments to disclose political and other activities in the U.S.

The FARA disclosures show multiple meetings with Francoeur, and her public relations attache’ Michael Pizziferri, with Maine officials in February, March and May of this year on matters described broadly in the documents as trade, energy and climate change.

The exact timing of the February meetings is not listed, but Mills announced support for the corridor project that same month.

In a statement, Lindsay Crete, a spokeswoman for Mills, said the February meeting was an introduction between the governor and Canada’s deputy ambassador to the U.S., Kirsten Hillman, and a discussion about climate change. 

In May, documents show several separate meetings with Francoeur, Republican and Democratic legislative leaders and members of the governor’s administration and staff. While the Legislature was considering several bills at the time that could have delayed or torpedoed the corridor project altogether, Crete said Quebec officials did not attempt to lobby the administration or the governor’s newly-hired energy director, Dan Burgess.

“The May meeting with Dan Burgess was to discuss general climate issues, including sharing information on multiple clean energy initiatives such as electric vehicle policies and NECEC (the corridor project), but they did not attempt to lobby our office regarding bills before the Legislature,” Crete said. 

Statements from Democratic leaders largely echoed Francoeur’s assessment: The corridor project and related legislation may have come up, but there was no attempt to persuade leaders to defeat the anti-corridor bills. 

“I report on the process,” said Francoeur, adding that Hydro-Quebec employs its own lobbyists. “I’m not there to influence it by any means.”

A spokeswoman for House Speaker Sara Gideon, who opposes the project, said in a statement that she met with Quebec officials to discuss an array of issues, including potential greenhouse gas emission reductions and dam generation related to the project. But Gideon’s statement – as well as one from Senate President Troy Jackson’s office – did not characterize the meetings as attempts to lobby. 

Had Quebec officials expressly lobbied against anti-corridor bills they might have been required to register as lobbyists with the Maine Ethics Commission, the agency that oversees Maine election and paid advocacy laws. However, triggering the lobbying registration requirement – paid influencing for at least eight hours in a month – is a high bar.  

Maine and Quebec officials interviewed for this story described the meetings as brief. 

Hydro-Quebec’s domestic subsidiary hired its own lobbyist, Tim Walton, last year. Walton, who is no longer working for Hydro-Quebec, said he was unaware of the meetings between government officials from Quebec and Maine, and that he worked exclusively for the company’s U.S. affiliate.

Walton’s former client is now behind the ballot question committee formed last month, Hydro-Quebec Maine Partnership. In response to questions from Maine Public Radio, Serge Abergel, the committee’s lead decision maker, said the committee is gearing up to provide “accurate information” if a 2020 referendum materializes.

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Comment by Willem Post on December 12, 2019 at 10:06am

New England should have more nuclear power.

With regard to nuclear power, it is not appropriate to mention Chernobyl (in 1986) over and over again.

That reactor had NO CONTAINMENT vessel and other deficiencies.


However, ALL operating utility reactors in the US do have containment vessels.

In case of Three Mile Island, the radiation was effectively contained after an accident in 1979, 40 years ago.

The Fukushima reactors likely would still be in operation for many years, if there had not been an OFF THE CHARTS, GIGANTIC, TSUNAMI, which IMMEDIATELY killed 10,000 people and displaced many more.

The deaths from radiation, at the plant site and nearby, were minimal.

Having the plant AT THAT LOCATION was the problem, not the plant itself.

I studied nuclear engineering at RPI, MSME, some decades ago.


Today about 450 nuclear reactors are operating in 30 countries, plus Taiwan, with total capacity of about 400,000 MW.

In 2018, they provided 2563 TWh of electricity, over 10% of the world’s electricity.


About 50 reactors are being constructed in 15 countries, such as China, India, Russia and the United Arab Emirates.


Each year, the OECD’s International Energy Agency (IEA) presents its World Energy Outlook (WEO) report.


In the 2019 edition (WEO 2019), the IEA’s ‘Stated Policies Scenario’ sees nuclear capacity at about 482,000 MW by 2040.

The increase is concentrated in Asia, and in particular China (34% of the total increase).


In 2040, nuclear would provide about 8.5% of the world's electricity.

The world's electricity is expected to increase at 2 to 3 percent per year from 2018 to 2040.

If nuclear were so "dangerous", the continued expansion of nuclear would not happen.


Comment by Willem Post on December 12, 2019 at 10:00am

Native folks complaining is a hoax

Hydropower is absolutely nothing in comparison to the holocaust of 1617, 1618, 1619, during which about 80 to 90 percent of the Northeast natives were wiped out from European diseases. Just start Googling.

That word got around in the Netherlands.

The coast was clear for the Pilgrims to land at Plymouth in 1620, right on top of an abandoned native village.

At that time, it was considered:

“God’s will favoring us pious Pilgrims and punishing these unchristian heathens”

That became the rallying cry in Canada and the US to make possible all our subsequent modernity.

The Canadian natives have been very amply compensated for decades by the Canadian government to ADJUST their lifestyles to modern reality, which ALL OF US have had to do at times.

Comment by Willem Post on December 12, 2019 at 9:57am

Democrats and their CARBON tax for more wind and solar are absolutely nuts.
They should push for more hydro power.

Hydropower is one of the cleanest of power sources.
Almost no CO2/kWh on an A to Z basis, and certainly near-zero toxic particulate emissions and near-zero toxic gas emissions per kWh, much less than wind and solar.

It is true building the water storage reservoirs to ensure CONTINUOUS hydropower causes environmental impact, but the alternative is mining rare earth metals in a far dirtier manner in China to build an equivalent capacity of far more expensive battery storage, and for rare earth metals for solar panels and wind turbines.

Vermont would be well served to obtain additional STEADY hydropower from Hydro Quebec at about 5.6 c/kWh; the low-cost electricity would boost its anemic, near-zero, real-growth economy far more than building out expensive, variable, intermittent, grid-disturbing wind and solar at about 10 c/kWh, excluding additional grid and battery investments.


Maine as Third World Country:

CMP Transmission Rate Skyrockets 19.6% Due to Wind Power


Click here to read how the Maine ratepayer has been sold down the river by the Angus King cabal.

Maine Center For Public Interest Reporting – Three Part Series: A CRITICAL LOOK AT MAINE’S WIND ACT


(excerpts) From Part 1 – On Maine’s Wind Law “Once the committee passed the wind energy bill on to the full House and Senate, lawmakers there didn’t even debate it. They passed it unanimously and with no discussion. House Majority Leader Hannah Pingree, a Democrat from North Haven, says legislators probably didn’t know how many turbines would be constructed in Maine if the law’s goals were met." . – Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting, August 2010 https://www.pinetreewatchdog.org/wind-power-bandwagon-hits-bumps-in-the-road-3/From Part 2 – On Wind and Oil Yet using wind energy doesn’t lower dependence on imported foreign oil. That’s because the majority of imported oil in Maine is used for heating and transportation. And switching our dependence from foreign oil to Maine-produced electricity isn’t likely to happen very soon, says Bartlett. “Right now, people can’t switch to electric cars and heating – if they did, we’d be in trouble.” So was one of the fundamental premises of the task force false, or at least misleading?" https://www.pinetreewatchdog.org/wind-swept-task-force-set-the-rules/From Part 3 – On Wind-Required New Transmission Lines Finally, the building of enormous, high-voltage transmission lines that the regional electricity system operator says are required to move substantial amounts of wind power to markets south of Maine was never even discussed by the task force – an omission that Mills said will come to haunt the state.“If you try to put 2,500 or 3,000 megawatts in northern or eastern Maine – oh, my god, try to build the transmission!” said Mills. “It’s not just the towers, it’s the lines – that’s when I begin to think that the goal is a little farfetched.” https://www.pinetreewatchdog.org/flaws-in-bill-like-skating-with-dull-skates/

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Hannah Pingree on the Maine expedited wind law

Hannah Pingree - Director of Maine's Office of Innovation and the Future

"Once the committee passed the wind energy bill on to the full House and Senate, lawmakers there didn’t even debate it. They passed it unanimously and with no discussion. House Majority Leader Hannah Pingree, a Democrat from North Haven, says legislators probably didn’t know how many turbines would be constructed in Maine."


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