Indigenous Communities Speak Out on New England Clean Energy Connect (CMP Corridor) and Related Hydroelectric Projects

Bowdoin College

As responsible and successful stewards of the land for thousands of years before the arrival of Europeans, the Indigenous peoples of what is now known as New England and eastern Canada have valuable insights into environmental issues affecting the greater region. For centuries, many of these communities have experienced the theft and desecration of their lands in the interest of natural resource extraction. They now face green colonialism as the world’s wealthiest inhabitants clamor for fossil fuel alternatives and again look to lands used by Indigenous communities as locations for their projects.

Donald B. MacMillan, Grand Falls [Patshetshuna, Chuchill Falls] of Labrador [Nitassinan] [Prior to Construction of Churchill Falls Generating Station], Mista-Shipu (Churchill River), Nitassinan (Labrador), Canada, probably 1931. Hand-tinted glass lantern slide. Gift of Donald and Miriam MacMillan.

Donald B. MacMillan, Grand Falls [Patshetshuna, Chuchill Falls] of Labrador [Nitassinan] [Prior to Construction of Churchill Falls Generating Station], Mista-Shipu (Churchill River), Nitassinan (Labrador), Canada, probably 1931. Hand-tinted glass lantern slide. Gift of Donald and Miriam MacMillan.

Over the course of the past year, several Tribes and First Nations have made powerful public statements, written heartfelt letters to elected officials and regulatory bodies, and stood up in support of one another to make their voices heard on the proposed New England Clean Energy Connect (NECEC, also known as CMP Corridor) and related projects which would carry hydroelectricity from Canada to the northeastern United States. Here are these communities’ official views in their own words:

July 27, 2021. The following is a statement of the Innu Nation of Labrador. It was released on the eve of an important announcement by the Canadian Prime Minister and the Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador regarding the Muskrat Falls Hydroelectric Project. The Innu Nation attest that they have not been consulted or informed on any agreement made between the Canadian government, the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, Hydro-Québec, and/or Nalcor Energy regarding Muskrat Falls. Based upon the historical record, the Innu expect that any deal involving their lands made without their knowledge or consent will run counter to their interests. Despite the devastation caused the Innu Nation by the 1969 Churchill Falls Generating Station, in which the Innu were not consulted, informed, or compensated for the flooding of their lands, the Nation did greenlight the more recent, downstream Muskrat Falls dam based upon the agreement that they would be consulted, informed, and fairly compensated partners in the project.

July 6, 2021. The following is a press release issued by Lac Simon, Kitcisakik and Abitiwinni (Anishnabeg Nation), Wemotaci (Atilamekw Nation), and Pessamit (Innu Nation). The five First Nations in Quebec announce a Formal Notice procedure warning the Quebec government and Hydro-Québec that they must suspend construction of the powerline connecting Quebec with Maine to allow for the requisite environmental studies as well as Indigenous consultation and compensation, or the First Nations will send the case to court to shut down the hydroelectric exportation project.

March 30, 2021. The following is a press release announcing a coordinated series of letters sent by the Penobscot Nation of Maine, the Innu Nation of Labrador, and the First Nations of Pessamit (Innu), Wemotaci (Atikamekw), Pikogan, Kitcisakik and Lac Simon (Anishnabek) of Quebec to the White House and the Prime Minister of Canada. They request that the Canadian and American administrations halt the Canadian Appalaches-Maine Interconnection Power Line Project and its American counterpart, the NECEC. The letters point out that First Nations and Tribes have not been consulted or compensated, yet the electricity to be supplied would be generated by 33 hydroelectric plants that are unconstitutionally located on ancestral First Nation territory and in violation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.The letters also indicate that Maine waterways and ecosystems would suffer extensive damage as a result of transmission line construction and that Hydro-Québec is subjecting the American public to an extensive greenwashing campaign potentially constituting election interference by a foreign government. Read the Quebec First Nations’ letter to the White House here, the Innu Nation of Labrador’s letter to the White House here, and the Innu Nation’s letter to the Canadian Prime Minister here.

December 3, 2020. The following is a press release of the Innu Anishnabek Atikamekw Political Coalition announcing that the Innu of Pessamit, the Atikamekw of Wemotaci, and the Anishnabeg of Pikogan, Lac Simon and Kitcisakik, in coordination with the Innu Nation of Labrador, have addressed two separate briefs to the Canada Energy Regulator expressing their opposition to a transmission corridor dedicated to exporting electricity to New England.The document highlights the ways in which these six Indigenous Nations in Quebec and Labrador believe the proposed Hydro-Québec project fails to comply with Canada’s constitutional requirements and international commitments.

November 9, 2020. The following is a letter from the Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador (AFNQL), an assembly of the chiefs of 43 Indigenous communities representing ten Nations, to the president and CEO of Hydro-Québec. The letter expresses the AFNQL’s support for the Innu Nation of Labrador in their $4 billion claim against Hydro-Québec for damages caused by the Churchill Falls hydroelectric project as well as support for five First Nations in Quebec in their outspoken opposition to the NECEC (Appalaches-Maine Interconnection project).

October 8, 2020. The following is a press release of the Center for Biological Diversity, North American Megadam Resistance Alliance, and the Innu Nation of Labrador announcing the above letter and reiterating the groups’ concerns regarding US federal regulators’ failure to adequately address environmental impacts of the proposed CHPE hydropower transmission corridor.

James P. Rioux, Churchill Falls [Patshetshuna, Grand Falls] in Labrador [Nitassinan], Canada [After Construction of the Churchill Falls Generating Station], Mista-Shipu (Churchill River), Nitassinan (Labrador), Canada, August 1993. Gift of James P. Rioux.
James P. Rioux, Churchill Falls [Patshetshuna, Grand Falls] in Labrador [Nitassinan], Canada [After Construction of the Churchill Falls Generating Station], Mista-Shipu (Churchill River), Nitassinan (Labrador), Canada, August 1993. Gift of James P. Rioux.

October 8, 2020. The following is a letter from the Center for Biological Diversity and the Innu Nation of Labrador to officials at the US Department of Energy (US DOE), the US Department of Commerce, the NOAA Fisheries Directorate and the US Army Corp of Engineers notifying them that they believe the US DOE and the National Marine Fisheries Service are in violation of the Endangered Species Act regarding their role in the Champlain Hudson Power Express project (CHPE). The letter points to several likely adverse effects the project would have on critical habitat areas for Atlantic sturgeon in the Hudson River. It also insists that the agencies’ reviews must “consider environmental impacts associated with the development of dams in Canada that would not have been built without the expectation that the electricity from these dams would be exported from Canada to New York via projects such as CHPE.” The letter goes on to describe the horrific environmental and cultural consequences of Hydro-Québec and Nalcor Energy Dams as experienced by the Innu Nation of Labrador.

October 7, 2020. The following is a press release of the First Nations of Pessamit (Innu), Wemotaci (Atikamekw), Pikogan, Lac Simon and Kitcisakik (Anishnabeg) announcing their above letter to the US Department of Energy and reiterating their demand for justice and opposition to the NECEC.

October 7, 2020. The following is a letter from the Band Councils of Pessamit Innu First Nation, Wemotaci Atikamekw First Nation, Pikogan, Lac-Simon and Kitcisakik of the Anishnabeg Nation to the Electricity Policy Analyst, Office of the Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability, US Department of Energy, submitting comments on the NECEC Project Presidential Permit Application. The letter highlights environmental and cultural degradation resulting from what they see as Hydro-Québec’s illegal practices and explains how NECEC will negatively affect their communities and environments.

October 6, 2020. The following is a press releaseof the Innu Nation of Labrador announcing a $4 billion claim against Hydro-Québec for irreparable damages caused by the construction of the Churchill Falls hydroelectric project.

August 27, 2020. The following is a letter from the Pessamit and Wemotaci councellors and Pikogan political attaché on behalf of their First Nations to the New England District of the US Army Corps of Engineers voicing strong opposition on behalf of their First Nations to the NECEC and requesting that the US ACOE deny the NECEC application for a section 404 permit.

August 18, 2020. The following is a press releaseof the Innu of Pessamit, the Atikamekw of Wemotaci, and the Anishnabek of Pikogan declaring their intention to do everything possible to derail the NECEC until they are compensated for what they see as Quebec’s and Hydro-Québec’s illegal and environmentally and culturally destructive hydroelectric practices.

August 17, 2020. The following is a press releaseof the Herring Pond Wampanoag Tribe of Plymouth, Massachusetts announcing its intention to stand in solidarity with the Penobscot and Innu Nations by calling on governors Baker and Mills to reject the NECEC.

August 5, 2020. The following is a press releaseof the Canadian Innu First Nation of Pessamit and the Atikamekw First Nation of Wemotaci outlining their plans to join forces to obtain compensation for what they see as illegal and environmentally and culturally destructive hydroelectric practices of Quebec and Hydro-Québec. They hope to obtain compensation by threatening to derail the NECEC project.

August 2, 2020. The following is a letter from the Chairwoman of the Herring Pond Wampanoag Tribe of Plymouth Massachusetts to the governors of Massachusetts and Maine expressing the Tribe’s intent to stand in solidarity with the Penobscot and Innu Nations in opposition to the NECEC.

July 24, 2020. The following are letters from the chiefs of Pessamit and Wemotaci, two Indigenous communities located in Quebec, to the Canadian Prime Minister and the Premier of Quebecoutlining what they see as a century of racist, environmentally destructive, illegal hydroelectric policy on the parts of Quebec and Hydro-Québec and demanding restitution. In addition, they express an intent to testify in the United States regarding the NECEC on behalf of the residents of Maine, who “find themselves to some extent in the same situation that was imposed in the past and which still affects our First Nations.”

July 22, 2020. The following is a letter from the Chief of the Penobscot Nation to the New England District Engineer Commander of the US Army Corps of Engineers (US ACOE). The letter, written on behalf of the Penobscot Nation, requests that the US ACOE prepare an Environmental Impact Statement in connection with the NECEC, details expected negative consequences for the Maine environment if the NECEC moves forward, and asks the US ACOE to consider potential effects on the environment and communities in Canada and on the Innu Nation in particular.

April 9, 2020. The following is an affidavitsubmitted by the Grand Chief of the Innu Nation of Labrador to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and the Maine Land Use Planning Commission. It details the impacts of the Churchill Falls Generating Station, draws a connection between Churchill Falls and the NECEC, and lists unsuccessful attempts to seek redress from Nalcor Energy and Hydro-Québec for environmental and cultural degradation.

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  • Sandra Howard
    published this page in News 2021-10-11 15:23:56 -0400