Energy tops agenda as northeastern leaders meet
Premiers, governors; Charest wants to boost exports of electricity and natural gas
The Gazette, Saturday, August 27, 2005
Energy and bilateral irritants will be on the menu today when Premier Jean Charest and the four Atlantic premiers meet with their counterparts from the New England states.
St. John's, capital of Newfoundland and Labrador, is the site of the 29th Conference of New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers.
Quebec and the Atlantic provinces have more energy to sell to the Americans and want to continue trading soft-wood lumber and other goods and services across the U.S. border.
Increased security since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks is slowing the trans-border flows of commerce that the North American Free Trade Agreement was supposed to ease.
Charest wants to sell natural gas from two proposed liquefied natural gas ports on the St. Lawrence River, at Levis and Gros Cacouna, and would like to increase sales of clean Quebec electricity, generated by hydro dams and windmills, once the province builds up new surplus energy supplies.
U.S. utilities are also counting on purchases of natural gas from a proposed new LNG port at Anadarko Bear Island on Nova Scotia's Strait of Canso as they scramble to shore up their own energy supplies, particularly natural gas, which now accounts for 10,000 megawatts of New England's generating capacity.
Plans on the Maine side of Passamaquoddy Bay to build two new LNG terminals across from picturesque St. Andrew's in New Brunswick have set the stage for controversy at the normally laid-back gathering, dismissed by wags as the premiers' and governors' "annual clambake."
Passamaquoddy Bay is also home to the North American right whale, which is an endangered species.
New Brunswick Premier Bernard Lord plans to raise his objections to the LNG terminals - which would add supertanker traffic to an area of his province dependent on tourism - when he meets Maine Governor John Baldacci in St. John's.
The looming border dispute could draw in the ambassadors from the two countries, who will be attending the premiers' and governors' conference for the first time since taking office.
Frank McKenna, named Canada's ambassador to Washington this year, served as New Brunswick premier for 10 years.
David Wilkins, recently named U.S. ambassador in Ottawa, was speaker of the South Carolina House of Representatives and has close ties to the Bush administration.
The governors are on record as favouring the use of more natural gas, which accounts for 18 per cent of New England's total energy consumption and 40 per cent of the fuel used to generate electricity.
The Charest government's proposal to build a natural-gas-powered electricity generating plant known as Suroit set off storms of protest in Quebec, because it would also generate greenhouse gases equivalent to adding 600,000 more cars to the province's roads.
By contrast, in New England, natural gas is considered a cleaner way to generate electricity - cleaner than thermal plants powered by coal and oil - and safer than nuclear power.
Last year, the New England governors adopted a resolution "to strengthen the region's energy position with respect to the use of natural gas, LNG and other options."
Those other options include building "additional LNG sites in New England and eastern Canada," according to a study prepared for the governors this year called Meeting New England's Future Natural Gas Demands.