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Environmental groups challenge federal approval of hydro project

QMI Agency
This image shows Muskrat Falls. (QMI AGENCY FILE)

This image shows Muskrat Falls. (QMI AGENCY FILE)

Two environmental organizations pledged Friday to take the federal government to court over its approval of a hydroelectricity project in Labrador.

On Thursday, the federal government gave the controversial Muskrat Falls hydroelectric dam the green light on the heels of a report from a joint federal-provincial panel that warned the plant will endanger fish, wetlands, caribou, fishing and sealing industries and local culture.

According to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, the benefits of the project on the Lower Churchill River — jobs and energy to meet growing demand — outweigh the risks.

But Grand Riverkeeper Labrador Inc. and Sierra Club Canada said the panel didn't do its job.

"What the panel did, it generally did well, but it didn't reach conclusions or findings on all the factors that it was obligated to take into account," Sierra Club spokesman Bruno Marcocchio said. "Alternatives, like wind power or conservation demand management, were not examined and the panel failed to obtain the information needed to assess such alternatives."

"The panel also failed to assess the cumulative environmental effects — like impacts on the George River caribou herd — that the Lower Churchill Generation Project would have in combination with other projects," said Roberta Benefiel, spokeswoman for Grand Riverkeeper Labrador.

The groups are seeking a court order that would block the feds from issuing any permits or financial guarantees necessary for the project to go forward.