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Headquarters ends the high-voltage line saga in Saint-Adolphe with a guilty plea

Headquarters ends the high-voltage line saga in Saint-Adolphe with a guilty plea

Hydro-Québec has put an end to the saga that, for more than ten years, surrounded the construction of the high-voltage line running through Saint-Adolphe-d'Howard. The state-owned company pleaded guilty to destroying natural environments and paid fines exceeding $125,000, a high amount compared to usual fines.

On Wednesday, December 20, 2023, just hours before the start of the Christmas holidays for many, the Quebec Ministry of the Environment published in its conviction registry a sentence that will go unnoticed: Hydro-Québec pleads guilty to three environmental crimes.

We can read that the errors of which the distributor is accused were committed during the construction of the disputed 120 kV electricity transmission line project that now connects Mont-Tremblant to Saint-Sauveur in the Laurentians.

Hydro-Québec admits it carried out reclamation work “on stream banks and in peat bog-type wetlands” between 2017 and 2019 without obtaining a license from the Ministry of the Environment. In February, Hydro Quebec paid more than $125,000 in fines and, above all, at the same time turned the page in a highly publicized eleven-year saga.

Because the construction of this transmission line sparked condemnation from citizens, including residents of the municipality of Saint-Adolphe-Douard. On several occasions, public figures echoed citizens' concerns, including Guy A. Lepage, Claude Mounier, Lisette Lapointe, and Emmanuelle Bilodeau.

A number of environmental violations have been noted over the years, and numerous penalties have been imposed on the distributor. In 2019, Quebec issued an order against Hydro-Québec noting that inspections revealed that “on several occasions, actions were taken [environnementales] done […] Insufficient […] To prevent the release of sediments into wetlands and water bodies.

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He pointed out that the documents submitted as part of the steps taken by the Ministry of Environment tell us more about the government company’s environmental oversight. duty.

In a sworn statement, Hydro-Québec's construction project manager – from 2017 to 2020 – confirmed that “Hydro-Québec does not have any document reporting a specific budget item for costs related to environmental measures that occurred during the work related to the project, nor during the follow-up following this the job.

Sarah Perrault was the spokeswoman for the Advisory Committee of Saint-Adolphe de Howard during this saga. “They were waiting for problems to arise. They did not anticipate problems, even though the people at Hydro-Québec are very efficient and quite capable of predicting the impacts. If the Saint-Adolphe environment director was able to anticipate the impacts, they would certainly have been able to do so within Hydro Quebec.

MI Perrault also questions the vigilance of Quebec's Ministry of the Environment. “How did he approve the environmental study conducted by Hydro-Québec without more details about the environmental impacts? This is a problem with this type of filing. They say: ‘We will take measures to reduce the impacts.’ But they do not detail the measurements.”

However, she believes that citizen mobilization was not in vain, explaining that Hydro-Québec had to review its ways of doing things for all similar projects.

Words reminiscent of those of former Hydro-Québec CEO Sophie Brochu, who, in 2020, while studying budget appropriations, admitted that the company “mentioned garnet” in this dossier: “It was a difficult project. […] There are great lessons we have learned from the way we think about projects. »

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Hydro Quebec admits that it did not obtain the necessary licenses to carry out work in some sensitive areas, but it confirms that it has learned from this file. This saga represents a turning point in the state corporation's approach. Since then, measures have been taken “to prevent such a situation from recurring in new projects,” Maxence Howard Lefebvre, a spokesman for Hydro-Québec, wrote via email.

For example, the company is training more workers who work in sensitive areas. It also requires site managers to develop an environmental control plan for natural environments. “This plan includes defining the work area, control measures and work methods that must be approved before work,” he explains.

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