The Cree Nation, joined by members of Congress, environmental groups, and citizens groups in New York and New England, is trying to invalidate compacts between the State of New York and the government of the province of Quebec, under which huge hydro-electric dams in the James Bay region of Canada would be built to provide power for New York.
The Cree asserted that such dams would cause massive flooding of their lands and this would destroy their income, food supply, culture and religion.
Environmentalists point out that the fluctuating water levels caused by the dams could damage wildlife habitats, threatening dozens of species of birds, and increase mercury contamination. Citizens groups in the region are concerned with the effect the plantis will have on recreation uses, and, moreover, fear that transmission lines, used to carry high voltages of energy, can expose residents to higher risk of leukemia and other life-threatening disorders.
CCR entered the fray with two cases. In the first, Hinchey v. Flynn, CCR joined congresspersons, the Atlantic States Legal Foundation, PROTECT, Inc. (Prudent Residents Opposed to Electric Cable Transmissions, Inc.), and the Grand Council of the Cree (of Quebec) in a suit against the Power Authority of the State of New York.
Hinchey, filed in April 1993, enumerated all possible dangers to the region and its citizens, but stressed that the compact was unconstitutional because it was never approved by Congress and violates the Migratory Bird treaty and Act, as well as other federal policies.
In Sierra Club v. Power Authority of the State of new York, et al and Con Edison, CCR sought to bar the compact with Quebec due to New York’s failure to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement. In 1990, local counsel had sued the Power Authority for violating New York State environmental laws in contracting with Hydro-Quebec, but the lower court dismissed the case on statute limitations grounds.
An appeal, filed in December 1992, was argued on January 28, 1994. But in a remarkable turn of events in March 1994, the new Power Authority head canceled the contracts, claiming that, “We don’t need the power…and there are unresolved environmental questions in Quebec.
On Hinchey: Michael Ratner with James A. Dumont
On Sierra Club: Matthew J. Chachere, Michael Ratner, and James Dumont of Sessions, Keiner, Dumont, Hayes & Everitt, P.C.