Demand for major Gaspe changes

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Quebec's environmental hearings agency is demanding major changes in the planned Le Nordais 100 MW project on Canada's Gaspe Peninsula and recommends slowing down its development timetable. Nonetheless the Bureau d'audiences publique sur l'environnement (BAPE) appears to be in favour of the project. It made public its report on the Le Nordais on March 21.

BAPE declares that to maximise the chances of success "certain modifications" should be made, particularly in "turbine locations and siting, the exact number of turbines, and their eventual decommissioning." Its primary recommendation was for siting the plant in an uninhabited area. The agency expects such changes would win the project greater acceptance from citizens near the currently favoured sites close to Cap-Chat and Matane. In addition, BAPE recommends the Nordais group clarify for the public the "incomplete" environmental impact data on wind plant noise and effects on agriculture and bird life.

BAPE deplores the fact that the Nordais consortium has yet to establish its legal right to the power supply contracts originally concluded between Hydro-Quebec and subsidiaries of Kenetech of California. The project was taken over by Le Nordais -- an international consortium which includes Micon of Denmark, a UK developer and a Japanese finance house -- after Kenetech's bankruptcy filing.

Despite these criticisms, BAPE found the project important because the Quebec government has stressed, in its broad energy policy manifesto, that wind power be developed as a provincial priority.

According to the construction schedule specified in the pair of 50 MW power purchase contracts with Hydro-Quebec, the turbine foundations must be in place by June. BAPE found this unrealistic in view of its proposed modifications, judged essential by the agency to meet local concerns on the Gaspe Peninsula.

The 237 page BAPE report was sent to Quebec's environment minister David Cliche in mid February. Cliche was required to provide his recommendations to the Quebec government by April 19. A source close to BAPE notes that Cliche will likely respect the agency's findings, which were published after eight days of public hearings in November and December.

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