MONTREAL - The governor of Maine is worried about the proposed mega sale of NB Power to Hydro-Quebec and is eager to voice his concerns with Quebec Premier Jean Charest.
The prospect of Hydro-Quebec becoming a regional powerhouse following last month's $4.75-billion deal has not only stoked fears in the office of Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams, but also among politicians and business leaders in New England.
In the tentative agreement, Hydro-Quebec would take over the majority of NB Power's assets - including transmission lines to Maine - and add more than 370,000 customers to its base. The deal is expected to be finalized in March.
The proposal would not only give Hydro-Quebec more access to lucrative markets in the northeastern United States, it would also place the province in a strategic position to cut off its Maritime competitors - including those who have been eyeing their own energy-export opportunities to New England.
South of the border, Gov. John Baldacci's deputy chief of staff said the state is evaluating what the deal could mean for Maine, which currently imports some of its power from New Brunswick.
"I wouldn't say that we're alarmed at this point, but certainly we want to gather more information and have a better understanding of what the potential impacts will be," David Farmer said of the importance of a meeting with Quebec's premier.
"I think any time that you have a merger of this size that you are concerned - but that's concerned in terms of wanting more information and wanting to understand."
The day the deal was announced the president of one New England trade association predicted the region's independent power companies could eventually be trampled by Hydro-Quebec, Canada's largest power utility.
In the Maritimes, the proposal enraged Williams, who warned a business audience in New York last week that such a takeover would give Quebec a "stranglehold" on energy exports into the northeastern United States.
Meanwhile, Charest has also expressed his intention to extend the energy behemoth's reach even further.
Earlier this month, he confirmed that Quebec and New Brunswick are talking with Prince Edward Island about a possible 100-megawatt deal that would create a three-province "energy hub" in Eastern Canada.
Farmer said Charest and New Brunswick Premier Shawn Graham spoke to Baldacci a few days before the agreement was announced.
Now, the governor's office is actively trying to set up a meeting with Charest to discuss the deal.
Farmer expects the leaders to schedule a phone conversation sometime in the coming weeks and a face-to-face meeting in the new year.
Baldacci is also seeking a meeting with Williams, he added.
John Martin, who represents a northern district in Maine's House of Representatives, says people are worried because nobody knows the long-term intentions of the Canadian utilities.
Maine didn't even know about the negotiations until a few days before Charest and Graham announced the deal, he said.
"Obviously, there's always a concern when you don't know what the bottom line is and that's where we are at this point," Martin said in an interview.
"If it should go through, it in effect means that we'll be pretty much bordered on two sides of Maine by Hydro-Quebec."
But Martin also believes the state could benefit from the deal.
Some citizens, himself included, want Maine's privately owned power utilities to sell out to Hydro-Quebec, so it has an easier time pumping low-cost electricity into the state.
"What would benefit us in Maine is cheap power, which of course is what Hydro-Quebec has," he said.
"We have nothing here in this state that could ever match the price of Hydro-Quebec."