Locked on course: Hydro-Quebec's commitment to mega-projects

James Maxwell, Lee Jennifer, Forrest Scott Briscoe, Ann Stewart, Tatsujiro Suzuki

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Large organizations often escalate their commitments to mega-project development, even after evidence becomes available of adverse environmental consequences or lack of economic feasibility. This escalation of commitment transcends both sectorial and national boundaries. Preeminent examples include controversial nuclear projects in the United States, hydroelectric projects like the Three Gorges Dam in China, and transport projects like the Chunnel and the Concorde. In this article, we examine the experience of Hydro-Quebec with the Great Whale Project. We argue that Hydro-Quebec escalated its commitment even after serious questions emerged about its environmental impacts and economic feasibility, because of (1) its earlier success with large projects, (2) its engineering culture's norms for consistency, and (3) its role in the government's desire for economic and cultural autonomy. Finally, we discuss the changes that are necessary to break commitments to such projects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)19-38
Number of pages20
JournalEnvironmental Impact Assessment Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 1997

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Ecology
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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