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Published by: Harvard Kennedy School
Published in: 1995

Abstract

When the government of Quebec announces plans to build a huge hydroelectric project in the James Bay region in the north of the province, a protracted struggle is set in motion. The government''s vision of energy self-reliance and export, along with construction and operations jobs, is set against the opposition of Cree Indians -- who fear the changes the project portends for their region -- and environmentalists in Canada and the US, who fear the despoiling of the remote north. In keeping with Canadian law and current practice in the developed world, Quebec initiates an elaborate environmental impact statement about the James Bay project. It is unclear, however, what levels and types of impacts would be acceptable and which is not. This case is meant to allow critique of the nature and limits of environmental impact reviews. Do they adequately protect environmentally fragile areas? Have they substituted for the traditional political process? Do they offer interest groups a wedge to stall major capital projects to death? The ultimate decision not to build the Great Whale project gives these questions additional impact.

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Abstract

When the government of Quebec announces plans to build a huge hydroelectric project in the James Bay region in the north of the province, a protracted struggle is set in motion. The government''s vision of energy self-reliance and export, along with construction and operations jobs, is set against the opposition of Cree Indians -- who fear the changes the project portends for their region -- and environmentalists in Canada and the US, who fear the despoiling of the remote north. In keeping with Canadian law and current practice in the developed world, Quebec initiates an elaborate environmental impact statement about the James Bay project. It is unclear, however, what levels and types of impacts would be acceptable and which is not. This case is meant to allow critique of the nature and limits of environmental impact reviews. Do they adequately protect environmentally fragile areas? Have they substituted for the traditional political process? Do they offer interest groups a wedge to stall major capital projects to death? The ultimate decision not to build the Great Whale project gives these questions additional impact.

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