Hydro-Quebec is on the defensive over the proposed Great Whale River Project.

The utility is being pummelled over its flawed environmental-impact study into the $13.3-billion project. The most embarassing development came when a panel of experts paid by Hydro-Quebec itself released a report saying the 5,000-page study is “gravely inadequate” in looking into the effects of the project on the Crees.

Hydro hired the experts to make an “independent” analysis of its impact study. “The study, in its present state, does not contain all the elements to make a decision [on the project’s acceptability],” said the president of the panel of experts, UQAM professor Camille Limoges, at a press conference in Montreal The analysis said Hydro has “seriously underestimated” the impacts of Great Whale on the Crees.

Hydro’s impact study must conform to a stringent list of guidelines set by five government committees looking into Great Whale. The committees have until Sept. 15 to decide whether Hydro’s study is adequate or whether more study is needed.

The chairman of one of the committees is furious at Hydro-Quebec for hiring the independent panel in the first place. “The fact that this is considered to be an expert, objective opinion pisses me off beyond belief,” said Peter Jacobs, chair of the Kativik Environmental Quality Commission, in an interview with the Gazette. “That assumes my committee is not objective.”

Jacobs was named to Kativik by the Quebec government. He added that Hydro’s hiring of its own experts “creates the impression of trying to do an end run [around the official review committees]. The end run, frankly, is not going to work.”

In another development, the Montreal Gazette reports that Hydro paid many of the dozens of companies that contributed to its impact study thousands of dollars to submit comments on the quality of their work to the five government committees. Not surprisingly, the companies all praised their own work.