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Environmental justice impacts of proposed Canadian hydropower for NYC highlighted day before critical PSC vote

Canadian First Nations representatives speak out on impacts from hydro dams as Hydro-Quebec signals that even more dams could be built  

Ossining, NY – Today representatives from the Ramapo Munsee Lenape Nation, Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg, Lac Simon Anishnabe Nation, Algonquin Anishinabeg Nation Tribal Council, Kanien’kehá:ka: Mohawk from the Akwesasne Reserve, Cree from Mistissini, Labrador Land Protectors and Grand Riverkeeper Labrador spoke about the damaging impacts of Hydro-Quebec’s mega dams that disproportionately affect Indigeneous peoples.

The First Nations representatives demanded that New York decision makers consider their rights in the decision on whether to approve valuable New York State Tier 4 ratepayer subsidies for the Champlain Hudson Power Express (CHPE). If approved, the project would bring power to New York City from massive hydroelectric dams in eastern Canada that have a long, devastating history of destroying rivers and damaging Indigenous communities, threatening their way of life.

New York’s Public Service Commission (PSC) could vote as early as this Thursday, April 14, on Tier 4 renewable energy credits for the CHPE project, which would carry hydroelectric power from the U.S.-Canada border to NYC, and for a second project, Clean Path NY, that relies on in-state wind and solar power.

“Virtually every mega dam in what’s currently known as Canada is within 100 kilometers of an Indigenous community. So no matter where this hydropower is coming from, it is disproportionately impacting Indigenous people, it’s harming our ways of life, it’s harming our cultures. And we really need to think about the generations to come and what it means, and recognize that hydropower is not the answer we’re looking for. It is not safe for us, it is harmful to the environment, it is harmful to us as Indigenous peoples, and it’s not the answer.”

– Amy Norman, Inuk, Labrador Land Protector

“’This is a major, major issue for, I believe, all First Nations.… The waters are most important to us as human beings. Human beings have rights. First Nations have rights. And water is so important to everyone, to all living creatures, because water is life. This is what we say, water is life. Me, I call this cultural genocide. That’s the impact we have.”

– Lucien Wabanonik, Councilor, Lac Simon Anishnabe Nation

View a recorded video of a discussion by the First Nations representatives here, and find a list of the participants below.

As the PSC decision approaches, Riverkeeper is renewing its call for New York State to deny the subsidies for CHPE and instead subsidize other renewable energy projects that could have far greater benefits and far lesser impacts to the environment and communities.

“Riverkeeper has been a leading voice calling for renewable energy projects and energy conservation measures for New York City for years,” said Tracy Brown, President and Hudson Riverkeeper. “We support renewable energy that is produced in New York, is designed to have minimal environmental impacts and places no extra pollution burdens on communities at either end of the transmission line. We believe Clean Path NY is such a project, but the Champlain Hudson Power Express is not. At this time we are urging the PSC to revisit competing alternative projects that don’t have the same negative environmental and social justice impacts that Canadian hydropower does. Our choice is not Canadian hydropower or fossil fuels. There are other candidate projects that would better align with New York’s stated goal of achieving a just and equitable transition to renewable energy and those are the projects we should be investing in.”

“Our opposition to the CHPE project has become more steadfast as the environmental justice impacts of Canadian dams become ever more apparent.” said Richard Webster, Legal Director at Riverkeeper. “In addition, Hydro-Quebec’s recently issued Strategic Plan indicates that it will suffer a shortage of energy by 2027 and new energy supplies will be required between 2027 and 2050 to transition Quebec off fossil fuels. It states, ‘Depending on demand growth, new hydropower generating capacity may therefore be required at some point in the future.’ CHPE would divert needed energy from Canada and could spur the building of new dams, which would have huge additional environmental and social justice impacts.”

Link to Hydro-Quebec 2022-2026 Strategic Plan:

Participants in the videoconference (in speaking order):

Chief Dwaine Perry and Owl Smith, Ramapo Munsee Lenape Nation

Kanerahtiio Roger Jock, a Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) leader from the Akwesasne Reserve

Amy Norman, Inuk, Labrador Land Protector

Will Nicholls, Cree from Mistissini

Lucien Wabanonik, Councilor, Lac Simon Anishnabe Nation (Formerly Lac Simon’s Chief and Grand Chief of the Anishinabeg Nation Tribal Council)

Chief Dylan Whiteduck, Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg

Roberta Benefiel, Grand Riverkeeper Labrador

Annie Wilson, North American Megadam Resistance Alliance


Contact: Leah Rae, [email protected], (914) 715-6821

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