Friday, December 6, 2019

Youth And Indigenous Voices Speak Out Against NECEC / CMP Corridor Through The Maine Woods

It was a long, tiring public hearing for the proposed NECEC / CMP corridor through the Maine woods last night in Lewiston, Maine. Most who testified were opposed to the project, receiving hearty applause from the hundreds in attendance. The federal officials who had come to hear from the people of Maine certainly got a strong indication of where public sentiment is on this environmental disaster as they began listening at 4:30pm.

As many of us wearily remained until 8pm to see if we would have a chance to testify, up stepped the students of St. John's Catholic School from Brunswick. Parker Jones spoke first and the effect on the audience was electrifying. Such eloquence from one so young!

Parker and his mom (and science teacher) Tiffany Jones gave me permission to record and post this video of his remarks. Unfortunately I didn't have the opportunity to ask the other two students for permission before they came to the microphone. All of them did well and nothing could have worked better on my motivation to hang in there until the end.

Research, writing, thinking and speaking skills are alive and well in Maine!

Before the hearing we held a press conference for my U.S. Senate campaign. Here's video that Regis Tremblay produced:

It's a good thing that he did, because the mainstream press who attended ignored our contributions completely in their coverage of the event. This was sad because we were fortunate to be joined by three indigenous speakers: John Gonzalez of the Pimicikamak people whose lands in Canada have been devastated by megadams to sell hydropower to the U.S., Dawn Neptune Adams of the Penobscot people whose homeland in Wabanaki territory would be devastated if NECEC is built, and a written statement from past Penobscot chief Barry Dana which he had sent to be read at the press conference.

Why would the mainstream press ignore these important voices? Perhaps indigenous voices are inconvenient when considering a project founded in environmental racism.

I'll write a fuller report on the content of the public hearing when I have more time. It was extremely educational and deserves to be widely shared.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Not Clean, Not Green: Proposed CMP Corridor/NECEC An Environmental Disaster From Beginning To End

White privilege means living in a bubble that prevents us from knowing how our actions and our lifestyle harm people who don't look like us. Class privilege means living in a bubble that prevents us from knowing how our wealth was built on trampling the prosperity of others we either can't see or don't care about.

Rita & Tommy Monias and Amy Norman on their speaking tour. Photo source: Resist Megadams Facebook page

When the North American Megadam Resistance Alliance third annual Megadams = Megadamage Speaking Tour came to UMaine at Farmington November 25, I went because I wanted to learn more about the origins of the proposed CMP project New England "Clean" Energy Corridor (NECEC). Origins in the sense of, where does this electricity start out, and what is the cost to the environment of generating electric power in this fashion?

I learned that and much more, certainly more than I had anticipated.

The environmental devastation described by indigenous speakers from Labrador to Quebec to Manitoba was incredible, almost beyond belief.

Grandes Chutes today, after Hydro-Quebec’s Romaine River project that includes four megadams. 
Source: Megadams Resistance website

“Hydropower development has altered 50,000 square miles of land that my people used for millennia to hunt, fish and trap and gather.  We can longer practice our traditional ways like our ancestors before us,” Carlton Richards of Pimicikamak territory, an Indigenous youth activist said

“This is cultural genocide.” 

Because I live in Maine where hydro power dams dot the Kennebec River, I thought I understood the effects of flooding, erosion, and management (sometimes catastrophically bad) of the water flow. But any dam I've experienced is puny in comparison to the megadams that cover northern Canada. 

Imagine a dam that flooded a reservoir the size of Ireland.

Now imagine 80 of them.

Photo credit: Tommy Monias
Imagine watersheds drained to divert water through turbines that make wealthy people wealthier.

"2019. Flooding boreal forests for Muskrat Falls on the Churchill River"
Photo credit: North American Megadam Resistance Alliance - NAMRA

Imagine a flooded area with water bubbling with methane from the thousands of acres of trees drowned. How would it smell? Imagine it filled with methyl mercury released by the submerged forests. How would a food chain filled with concentrated mercury sustain life?

Imagine trying to practice traditional food harvesting of wildlife in a landscape that is literally no longer recognizable to the elders who received tens of thousands of years of accumulated wisdom about sustainable living in that place.

Photo credit: Tommy Monias

Imagine a frozen river that fluctuates up and down, creating air pockets between ice layers, and ridges of ice as tall as a person, invisible beneath the snow. Now imagine driving a snowmobile across it, hoping you guess correctly where the dangerous spots are.

Imagine driving a fishing boat through a river full of submerged islands and dead heads i.e. submerged trees trunks, hoping you don't hit one and die.

Photo credit: Tommy Monias

Noretta Miswaggon of Pimicikamak territory doesn't have to imagine any of the above, because it is reality for her family. They are at the receiving end of bad water management policies intended to generate huge profits, funded through bonds issued by Goldman Sachs and other profiteers. The "crown corporations" of Canada function like the odious private-public projects that neoliberals in the U.S. are so fond of: the cost and risks are borne by the public, while the profits flow to private investors. 

Rita and Tommy Monias, also of Pimicikamak territory, are elders who experienced traditional life along the waterways before the megadams ruined them. They spoke of their people paying for the electric power generated in every way possible, including exorbitant rates that subsidize cheap rates for U.S. customers. 

When Rita's granddaughter gets sores from swimming in murky, polluted water that has replaced a once pristine river she will never swim in or fish from, what compensation can there be? 

Amy Norman (speaking above) is a Labrador Land Protector who has been arrested many times for resisting megadams. She spoke of the food insecurity created by ruining traditional sustenance fishing and hunting grounds in remote areas where purchasing food is not within the reach of ordinary working people. She explained how methyl mercury moves from up the food chain to concentrate in the body fat of  fish and then seals -- and the Inuit who survive by hunting them. She observes of megadam generated hydropower,

"It's not clean, and it's not green."

Roberta Benefiel, Grand Riverkeeper of Labrador, explained that it's not cheap either. She's calculated that the cost out of a turbine at the Muskrat Falls project is 62 cents per kilowat hour while the selling price to U.S. customers is 5 cents. She wants us to know the truth about the allegations that hydro power is cheap or clean.

"We came down here because the purchasers of the power have the power to stop it."

Now that we, the purchasers, know the truth of why CMP wants to cut through the Maine woods to deliver Hydro-Quebec megadam power to customers in Massachusetts, we can help stop this environmental racism.

Here are resources to take action: