Regardless of how readers may feel about the New England Clean Energy Connect project — the line that would transmit renewable, hydroelectricity from Quebec to the New England power grid — I think everyone can agree that accurate and balanced reporting is necessary in evaluating the opportunities the project represents.

I am writing in response to the series “A Deadly Shade of Green” carried by this news organization. This series, including an article by Matt Hongoltz-Hetling, crossed a significant line in distorting truths and spreading disinformation. The series is designed to instill fear about the NECEC project by telling the stories of individuals who have grave concerns about hydropower projects that have no connection to the NECEC powerline.

Here are a few of the series’ flaws:

Geography: Matt Hongoltz-Hetling intertwines references to the New England Clean Energy Connect (NECEC) project — where the power would be generated exclusively in Québec, by Hydro-Québec — with the concerns of Inuit communities neighboring the Muskrat Falls hydro project, which is owned by another company in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. The NECEC will connect Québec’s hydropower network to the New England grid. By contractual agreement, we will use a tracking mechanism, compatible with the NEPOOL GIS, to guarantee the provenance of the energy, ensuring it’s 100% from Québec. In the few questions Mr. Hongoltz-Hetling asked Hydro-Québec for his piece, he never once asked about the energy source for NECEC.

Repeated “mistakes”: This past fall, Mr. Hongoltz-Hetling published a series of articles on this same topic. Again, confusion about the NECEC and the concerns of the Inuit communities in Labrador were woven into the writing. The most recent series of articles presented in these pages unfortunately went much farther in misinforming the public. A map showing a flow of power from Labrador towards the east, to the island of Newfoundland, and then south to yet another Canadian province, Nova Scotia, was given the title “The New England Clean Energy Connect.” This is 100% incorrect. The NECEC line would run from Québec to a substation in Lewiston, Maine. Hydro-Québec intervened to have the title corrected. It was in some places, but not all.

Disregard to fact and decades of science: There are no factual grounds for the name of the series, “A Deadly Shade of Green.” Nothing in the series correlated any deaths to a hydroelectric dam project anywhere in Canada — much less one associated with the NECEC project. Suggesting otherwise is sensationalizing at best and slanderous at worst.


Evidently, the title for this series referred to the fears of the Labrador Inuit communities regarding the issue of mercury. So, let’s lay down the facts about mercury and hydropower development in Québec. Impoundment of water in reservoirs leads to temporary increases in mercury levels in fish. This is a known phenomenon, and one that has been extensively monitored by Hydro-Québec for over three decades. We have developed an approach with public health officials and local communities to address concerns and create consumption guides for populations that eat a lot of fish. As a result, there have been no known cases of mercury intoxication from fish consumption in Québec. None.

What’s more, a Harvard study collected hair analyses from residents in the communities featured in Matt Hongoltz-Hetling’s articles, and no cases of intoxication were discovered. These analyses showed mercury levels similar to those measured in the general population of the United States and Canada who occasionally consume fish.

This series was promoted along with other content about the NECEC, including a video report with the title “A Deadly Shade of Green — A Scar across the Land,” associating the fallacious “deadly” to the transmission project through Maine. In this report, a gentleman from Maine who opposes the NECEC claims that it will lead to destruction . . . in Labrador. There are no counterviews, or accurate facts about the project or its source of energy.

The “Deadly Shade of Green” series has an anti-NECEC agenda. It feels like a paid advertisement from the opposition. If it isn’t, it has only served to muddy the waters at a time when truth and accuracy are essential in order to adequately measure the merits of the NECEC — and that’s a disservice to everyone.

Lynn St-Laurent is a spokesperson for Hydro-Québec.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.