The Penobscot Nation has declared its opposition to Central Maine Power’s proposed transmission corridor.
Penobscot Natural Resources Director John Banks told Maine Public on Tuesday that the tribe was standing against the CMP corridor in solidarity with Innu Nation in Labrador, Canada. Innu land has been flooded for damming. Hydro-Quebec, the government-owned hydropower giant that helped build the Churchill Falls dam in Labrador in 1970, now wants to partner with CMP to transmit power to utilities in Massachusetts.
Banks told Maine Public that Innu Nation leaders recently approached the Penobscot Nation for assistance.
The announcement comes after Penobscot Nation leaders sent a letter last week to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers requesting a full review of the corridor through an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).
CMP’s proposed 145-mile corridor through forest lands in Western Maine would impact the Kennebec River and the Penobscot River Watershed.
“Given the Nation’s concerns with the environment, it is our view that whenever a project is of the magnitude and has the impact of NECEC [New England Clean Energy Connect], and it is the subject of as much controversy as NECEC, the only environmental review appropriate is an EIS,” Penobscot Nation Chief Kirk Francis wrote in a letter to the Corps of Engineers on July 22. “Particularly here where the Kennebec River is a vital resource and substantial efforts have been made over the last years to restore its fishery and improve its water quality, a project that has the potential to affect the watershed must be carefully scrutinized.”
Francis said in his letter that the environmental impact study also needed to assess the impacts to the Innu lands. Innu leaders also expressed support for the impact study.
“The Innu people of Labrador stand in solidarity with the Penobscot’s call for an environmental review. It is important that the people of Maine do not end up in the same situation as our people,” Innu Nation Grand Chief Gregory Rich said in statement. “Flooding of our territory by Hydro-Quebec’s dam at Churchill Falls devastated our burial grounds, livelihoods, animal habitats and harvesting territory. At the same time, Hydro-Quebec has made billions of dollars from the dam which flooded our lands. The extent of possible damage that the NECEC Corridor will cause must be investigated.”
In April, the Innu Nation filed comments with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection saying that the hydropower source for the transmission corridor has destroyed the Innu way of life.
Francis warned the Corps that the failure to conduct a complete assessment of the Dakota Access Pipeline led a federal court to strike down their permit in March.
“A failure to prepare an EIS has a high likelihood of being overturned in court, as the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s recent victory in the Dakota Access Pipeline case demonstrates,” Francis wrote.
The Penobscot and Innu nations’ opposition to the corridor comes as it faces a referendum this November seeking to overturn regulatory approval of the project by Maine’s Public Utilities Commission.
CMP has already spent $10.5 million and Hydro-Quebec has spent $6.2 million on a political campaign to build support for the corridor, referred to in ads as a “clean energy corridor.”