In Quebec, it’s power versus a people on hydroelectricity

The Bersimis-1 plant’s outflow canal feeds into the Betsiamites River below a mountain 50 miles north of the St. Lawrence River. –David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

BAIE-COMEAU, Québec — Deep beneath a granite mountain in the vast, snow-covered wilds north of the Saint Lawrence River, a frigid torrent surges through a massive, man-made tunnel, its white water propelling eight powerful turbines that generate electricity for hundreds of thousands of people.

Within two years, a significant amount of that power, along with hydroelectricity from other plants in this Canadian province, could be exported to Massachusetts, providing the state with a long-awaited influx of renewable energy.

This week, state officials are expected to announce whether they intend to buy more hydropower as part of the Baker administration’s energy plan. But in and around this old paper mill town about 400 miles northeast of Montreal, the indigenous peoples of the region harbor major concerns about the environmental impact of the project, complicating the quest for climate-friendly power.


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