U.S. Army Corps of Engineers hold public hearing on CMP corridor
During a December 5th packed public hearing, people from across Maine, parts of New England, and Canada, gathered in Lewiston to express overwhelming opposition to the proposed Central Maine Power (CMP) corridor, known also as “New England Clean Energy Connect” (NECEC), through Western Maine and demand the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers conduct a rigorous environmental review.
The controversial transmission line has been found to have significant problems by both state and federal agencies, and is opposed by representatives of Penobscot, Pimicikamak Cree, Democratic and Republican legislators alike, and full spectrum of people in between, for its destruction of the natural environment, recreational economy, and cultural genocide.
Indigenous Statespersons in Solidarity: Water, Biodiversity, Genocide
Lisa Savage, the only U.S. Senate candidate in attendance, held a press conference prior to the Army Corp of Engineers public hearing side-by-side with representatives of First Nations to voice strong, public condemnation of the CMP Corridor.
John Gonzalez, a Canadian representing Pimicikamak Cree Nation from the hydro-impacted area, said indigenous people are suffering from the highest levels of neurotoxin methyl-mercury poisoning, the land has been decimated, the sturgeon are disappearing, and that there are no longer any caribou. And now, he says, CMP wants to build a New Jersey-sized corridor through a pristine, fragile biodiversity.
So many people were in attendance that day, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers changed protocol and allowed only 2-minutes per testimony. John Gonzalez cut his testimony short and calmly railed.
“The provincial crown corporation HydroQuebec and the Canadian government have an obligation to truth and reconciliation. These are the people disproportionately impacted by the extreme energy extraction that is happening across Canada while pushed as green, renewable energy,” said Gonzalez.
“These industrial-scale hydro developments are producing levels of destruction akin to Canada’s massive tar sands and mining operations,” he continued. “Canadian hydro-power consumers consumes the most land per megawatt of any type of energy. We ask the Army Corps of Engineers to deny this permit and to stop a corridor that will perpetuate the cultural genocide of indigenous people and environmental destruction of Canada and New England,”
Among those who defended Maine’s ecosystem under attack, was Dawn Neptune Adams of the Penobscot Nation, who said her number one concern about the corridor is the health of the water, which does not respect borders, she said.
Adams carried a message from respected elder Tommy Monias, an activist who works to reveal the megadams for the monstrosities they are. Monias has expressed how his people practice their culture with fishing and trapping and hunting…and just being with the river…and how dangerous it is for them now, just to exist as themselves in their territory. It is cultural genocide, they said.
Dawn Neptune Adams also read a quote from the March 17th Sun Journal from Tom Saviello, a Republican Senator with whom Dawn regularly disagrees. But Saviello lives in Wilton, in the path of the corridor, so in this they are aligned. Both have publicly denounced the project, revealing that Mainers will receive pennies in trade for ecological and cultural devastation.
“CMP will make $60 million in profit a year, and HydroQuebec will make $10 billion in revenues over the course of 20 years. That’s a lot of money. Putting their offer on a monthly basis, each Maine citizen would receive a whopping 38 cents per month. Per month. That’s not a lot of money. In exchange, Central Maine Power would make 5 million per month, and Hydro Quebec would make a little more than 41 million per month. So compare that 38 cents to these millions that these energy companies are going to get. It’s pennies for the people and millions for power companies.”
Adams added, “When the means of production are in the hands of the people, then people make decisions about what is best for our communities. The people decide if they want to be responsible for the cultural and ecological genocide of their indigenous neighbors to the north, who are directly affected by the flooding of their territories.”
“In the short term, we need to convince these governmental agencies, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, to reject this injustice….We need the people to vote on a referendum to reject the corridor through this pristine wilderness…”
Proposed Bill to Take over CMP and create a consumer-owned utility
In the long term, said Adams, let’s put the means of electricity production in the hands of the people by turning energy companies into public utilities like that proposed in Rep. Seth Berry’s (D-Bowdoinham) bill. Using revenue bonds would allow Maine to buy CMP and Emera and create a “consumer-owned utility,” which would be owned by taxpayers and operated by the state.
Maine has four COU’s already. COU’s, which serve one in seven Americans, have consistently been shown to deliver power at lower rates with fewer and shorter outages, and do not use tax dollars. Berry’s bill has bipartisan support and is gaining traction.
Boondoggles and Falsehoods – The Climate Emergency and Dirty, Dangerous Energy.
Lisa Savage, who is running for the U.S. Senate seat of Susan Collins under ranked choice voting as a Maine Green, gathered allies for the press conference to voice strong, unified public opposition to the project. Savage, who is also a teacher and activist, is appalled.
“This is a climate emergency, right now,” she said. “I think that many young people look at my generation and say, ‘What part of emergency do you not understand?’ Savage expressed incredulity at the absurdity of drowning forests and cutting down vast tracts of land that are sequestering carbon at a time when we are in dire crisis.
“Human beings may very well be an endangered species soon and we may very well take many other life forms down with us. I have grandchildren. I have children,” she urged. “Many of you here have loved ones that you don’t want to see live in the kind of world with constant weather disruptions and lack of potable water and out-of-control storms and the kind of suffering that comes when climate refugees are pouring into Maine looking for a place just to be safe and live with their families. None of us want to see that happen.
“The Maine wilderness is far too valuable of a heritage and a resource and a life support system for so many living things, that these decisions cannot be put into the hands of corporations with a profit motive. They must be made by the people for the benefit of the people and for the next seven generations….”
Jonathan Carter, a past Green Party gubernatorial candidate and the Director of the Forest Ecology Network, called the CMP Corridor a “boondoggle,” defined as work or activity that is wasteful or pointless but gives the appearance of having value. He spoke of political corruption and big money that is undermining the will of Mainers.
“When I see ads from these people from Avangrid [who owns CMP] that say they’re bringing clean energy to Maine, it’s an absolute falsehood. It’s an absolute lie! It’s beyond fake news. It’s not true. I’ve been up to Northern Quebec. I’ve seen what they’ve done up there. I’ve seen thousands of acres of forest that they’ve flooded and destroyed – boreal forests gone forever.”
“We need to stop this. If Maine allows this power to transit down to Massachusetts, we are complicit in the destruction of a forest that is incredibly important for carbon sequestration….If the Army Corps of Engineers permits this, they are turning their heads and their eyes away from the truth of what we need to do to save this planet.” He hopes that the Army Corps of Engineers will listen to the people, analyze what they hear, and conclude that the project should not be permitted.
Dr. Jill Stein, two-time presidential Green Party candidate, traveled from Massachusetts to talk about the impact on the other end of what she called a “dirty energy project,” using the words of the Maine Sierra Club; and agreed with sentiments of Massachusetts District Attorney Maura Healey, calling it a “sham,” without transparency to reveal what kinds of energy swaps are going on beneath beneath the radar.
“The whole reason for this project was to help Massachusetts hit its allegedly lofty and green energy goals of 80% dirty energy reduction by 2050. But in the effort to meet that goal, we’ve basically given the seal of approval on this energy, which is anything but clean. We know that this energy is a human rights disaster. We know that it’s part of an indigenous genocide. It has flooded an area the size of the state of Vermont.”
“So it’s just a crime to allow this to go forward when the people of Maine, and increasingly people around the world, understand that this is dangerous energy,” said Stein.
Statewide polling done in the Spring by the Natural Resources Council of Maine indicates that 65% of Mainers oppose this project, and only 15% support it. In directly impacted counties, those numbers are even more dramatic.
“Maine should be leading the charge in creating the infrastructure for the production of clean, renewable energy, not importing dirty and human-rights oppressive, big hydro from Canada,” Stein said.
And in a statement from the former chief of the Penobscot Nation, Barry Dana pled with the state of Maine to “reject the proposed power corridor known as a so-called ‘green energy’ coursing its way across our sacred lands here in Maine, but also known to me and my people as our homeland.
“This project symbolizes the continued attack on native peoples and the Earth. This New England ‘clean’ energy corridor is nothing more to my people than continuous cultural genocide, ethnic cleansing, massive-scale, ecosystem destruction, and deforestation of a once pristine, sacred place. This never should have happened nor should it continue.
“This mega damn is just mega profits for the rich at the expense of the Earth and future generations. My people have been lied to about these dams and coerced into signing deals…based on lies…history repeating itself. Enough is enough. It’s time for real leadership in Maine and DC. We have the guts to combat global climate change. Megadams are not the answer.”
If you’d like to get involved, please contact MerrillWEN@gmail.com. Merrill is an activist, organizer, and journalist who works on climate, housing, harm reduction, anti-fascism, and other areas of social justice.