Hydro-Quebec has wasted $256 million on studies of the Great Whale project that don’t meet environmental standards.

Four federal and provincial committees studying the project said on Nov. 18 that Hydro’s studies—conducted over a period of 11 years—fail to answer key questions about the mega-project and have “major inadequacies.”

Just hours after the committees issued their joint report, Premier Parizeau announced Great Whale would be indefinitely postponed.

The joint report said Hydro’s study “suffers from a number of major inadequacies which prevent a clear definition and prediction of the repercussions of the proposed project to the extent that it becomes extremely difficult to adequately estimate its real costs and benefits.”

Overall, the committees recommend over 300 changes to Hydro’s report. They say the report fails to establish whether the energy produced by Great Whale is in fact needed. There is also lack of knowledge about the effects on the Crees and Inuit.

“The knowledge of local communities about their own environment, which would be essential to an adequate project evaluation is, for all practical purposes, absent,” say the committees.

Their report says Hydro doesn’t even know when it plans to build Great Whale. The utility says it will need energy from the project around 2005, but some of its own projections show Great Whale may not be needed until after 2031.

The report also criticizes Hydro for ignoring the project’s effects on the Sanikiluaq Inuit of the Belcher Islands.

The negative verdict is all the more striking because two-thirds of the members on the committees are appointed by the provincial and federal governments under rules established in the James Bay Agreement. The Crees and Inuit appoint only one-third of the committee members.