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The Connecticut River’s staunch public defense broadens…

Posted by on 02 Jan 2022 | Tagged as: America's best landscaped sewer, Anadromous Fish Conservation Act, Andrew Fisk, Connecticut River, conservancy, Conte National Fish & Wildlife Refuge, CRC, defense, E-Comments, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, FERC, FERC Comments, FERC license, FirstLight, Hudson Riverkeeper, Kathleen Theoharides, Landmark Supreme Court Decision 1872, MA Department of Energy and Environmental Affairs, MA Division of Fish and Wildlife, Massachusetts DEP, Massachusetts Division of Fish & Wildlife, Nation's best landscaped sewer, National Marine Fisheries Service, NMFS, Northfield Mountain, Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station, P-2485, right-to-know, Silvio O. Conte Connecticut River National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, US Fish & Wildlife Service, USFWS

THE PUBLIC CONTINUES TO STEP UP and defend the Connecticut River against a new half-century of ecosystem destruction.

IN THE LAST TWO WEEKS MORE THAN 40 CITIZENS–and counting, have entered testimony into the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission public record stating that the Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Project is too destructive to be relicensed.

You can read the latest citizen FERC filings–and get directions for filing your own, further below.

These on-the-record defenses become part of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s input as they ultimately make their “Environmental Assessment” of FirstLight’s full and final license application some months down the road. FERC, too, is mandated to ensure that federal and state environmental laws and statutes are followed when deliberating the issuance of a license.

Will they follow the citizenry and release Northfield’s deadly choke hold on this ecosystem in Massachusetts after 50 years of destruction??

I wish I could promise that will happen. What I can promise is that the MA Division of Fish & Wildlife, the MA DEP, the US Fish & Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service–all agencies that have failed all these decades to protect and enforce environmental statutes and federal fish passage and protections on the Connecticut this last half century, will CERTAINLY be reading these comments. They will be reading them in the knowledge that people are paying attention as they participate in backroom “final” license negotiations with FirstLight.

WILL THESE AGENCIES, ALL WITH MASSACHUSETTS OFFICES, FINALLY STAND UP for what’s still the Nation’s best landscaped sewer here in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts–AGAINST this deadly, river-reversing scourge crippling an entire ecosystem??

THEY ALL OWE NEW ENGLAND A LIVING CONNECTICUT RIVER!

Why we find ourselves here after half a century is because the river here has been left undefended since the mid-1960s when the Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Project was first proposed.

The photo above is of a little tourism, chamber-of-commerce Connecticut River promotion paddle that took place in October 2020. That little promo outing left from a site virtually next to the mouth of the Northfield Mountain’s deadly intake tunnels. That’s MA Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Kathleen Theoharides in front of the camera, State Senator Jo Comerford is in the background on the left, and CRC Director Andy Fisk–though not pictured, was also a happy paddling participant that day.

While all were offered turns in front of those cameras and to talk to the print media on FirstLight’s turf–next to the grimmest machine ever installed on the Connecticut, NOT ONE spokesperson or representative took the opportunity to defend a defenseless river; not one made any reference to the grim fate of this ecosystem’s resident and migratory fish…imperiled, just yards away, when they had the opportunity to reach the public through the media.

Rather than green-wash the elephant in the room, any one of them could have offered this truth to the public: This river-reversing machine literally devours millions of eggs and young-of-the year migratory fish produced in a three-state(Vermont, New Hampshire and northern Massachusetts)river reach annually. Instead, they paddled and picnicked.

For comparison, a nearly mirror-image pumped storage proposal was brought up in the mid-1960s by Consolidated Edison for Storm King Mountain on the Hudson River at virtually the same time.

Unlike on the Connecticut, where a “watershed council” had been in business since 1952, the citizens on the Hudson got together and decided to FIGHT against turning Storm King Mountain into their river’s deadly sewer. They fought ConEd in the courts, and defended their Hudson River, openly, in the court-of-public-opinion, for 15 years–and WON. They proudly bragged about their mission, their willingness and duty to investigate, enforce, and prosecute. That’s what bona fide river protection looks like. They forced the state and federal agencies to DO THEIR JOBS! That’s what real watchdogs do.

Do a quick bit of research on Storm King Mountain, the Hudson River Fishermen’s Association, Scenic Hudson, and ultimately, Hudson Riverkeeper, and you’ll see what enforcement and real river defense models–with staff lawyers and enforcement, look like.

HERE, BELOW, you can read a new citizen’s defense–the latest public filings defending our river and it’s ecosystem. Another half century of failure is simply unacceptable:

Document Accession #: 20220103-5007 Filed Date: 01/03/2022
Frank Ribeiro, Bernardston, MA.

Hello
As a concerned citizen of Franklin County, Massachusetts, I have lived in the Connecticut river valley for fifty years. It is truly a wonderful place to live.

In today’s modern world there are many environmental challenges that we face to maintain the balance of nature. The one problem that has been obvious to me over the many years is the constant assault to our beautiful river.

We need to stop this assault and abuse. FirstLight MA Hydro LLC license request to continue operation of the Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage must be rejected.

For the sake of company profits OUR river is out of balance. It needs your help to secure its future and the future of ALL things living who are dependent on its survival in a natural, balanced state.

Please reject this application.

Thank You
Frank Ribeiro

Document Accession #: 20220103-5010 Filed Date: 01/03/2022
Andrew Hutchison, Greenfield, MA.

I ask FERC to deny FirstLight’s bid to relicense the Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station for the sake of all aquatic life in our beloved Connecticut River ecosystem. This system is clearly harmful to endangered species, such as the shortnose sturgeon. While the facility has been bought and sold numerous times over the years, the attention to preserving the ecosystem has been ignored repeatedly in search of profits. While private businesses have a right to seek profits for their shareholders, that does not supersede the endangered species act or the right of the stakeholders to a healthy river.

Document Accession #: 20220103-5011 Filed Date: 01/03/2022
Mark Russo, Deerfield, MA.

RE: the request of First Light for re-licensing of Northfield, MA pumped storage facility (FERC project number P-2485). I have serious concerns about the damage caused by this facility to the critically important Connecticut River eco-system as graphically detailed in editorials submitted by Karl Meyer and published in the Greenfield Recorder. If your decision is to renew this controversial license, strong environmental safeguards must be required and regularly monitored; and given the current global environmental crisis, the term of the license renewal should be substantially reduced from 50 years to 25 years or less.

Document Accession #: 20220103-5012 Filed Date: 01/03/2022
Judith Phillips, Northfield, MA.
RE: Hydroelectric License/Re-license Proceedings FERC Project Number P-2485

Dear Commissioners,
I am seeking to comment on First Light’s relicensing bid for the Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station on the Connecticut River.

As a Northfield resident I urge FERC in the strongest possible terms to NOT relicense First Light’s Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage facility for another 50 years for the sake of all aquatic life in our beloved Connecticut River ecosystem. The River is in a perilous position with its ecosystem teetering in these “confidential” final license settlement negotiations between Canada-owned First Light and MA Division of Fish & Wildlife, MA Div. of Environmental Protection, the US Fish & Wildlife Service and NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries that has been taking place during this December. All that has been discussed and ?agreed to? is being done behind closed doors.

I believe these license settlement negations should be moved out into the light of day and into a public forum.

In addition to the pumping station in Northfield adversely impacting our River by wasting energy from fossil fuels that they burn to send water uphill just so it can flow down back into the river which destroys the fish, and more recently First Light is impacting our tax base. Regarding taxes, First Light is a subsidiary of Canada owned power company and that they have moved their corporate assets for Northfield Pump Storage and the Turners Falls Hydroelectric to Delaware to avoid Massachusetts taxes, clearly shows their primary goal is maximum profit.

For me, in the face of the huge environmental crisis we all are in and the current environmental damage that is occurring daily from the Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station, for FERC to renew a 50-year license to First Light’s outdated pumping station should be unthinkable! Further I believe this ancient energy provider, is the exact opposite of sustainability both energetically and ecologically and needs to stop now!

Laura Doughty, Wendell, MA summarized it well.
“If we are to have any chance at keeping a livable planet, we must start *now* to use wiser and more efficient energy storage technologies. It isridiculous to let this corporation use far more energy than it can ever create so that it can perpetuate its business model of buying low and selling high. From an energy conservation point of view it makes no sense, but when one considers the vast ecological damage this facility has been allowed to inflict, it is shameful that it has not been shut down long ago. Please do what is right for our river, and for our planet.”

Please DO NOT relicense the Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage facility for the people and the environment upon which we depend for our continuing survival.

Judith Phillips
482 Orange Road
Northfield, MA

Document Accession #: 20220103-5013 Filed Date: 01/03/2022
Priscilla Lynch, Conway, MA.

I am writing to express my strong opposition to the renewal of FirstLight’s license to operate the Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station on the Connecticut River in Northfield, Ma. It is way past time to cease this destructive assault on our environment, the river and its ecosystems. As you know I am sure, this facility uses power from the grid to pull the river’s water back and up the mountain to be released at peak times at peak prices. In the process it churns, chops and spits out fish and other essential aquatic life. At a time when our very best efforts should be to heal and preserve our waters and ecosystems as a means to ensure the very survival of life on earth, it is irresponsible to continue operation of this facility. FirstLight does not offer solutions or healing to our environment. It is foreign corporation making a great deal of money on losses to our environment and our well being. Please consider it your duty to act responsibility and do not renew FirstLight’s license to operate the Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station. As public servants, doing so will be doing immense good for those you are intended to serve. By not doing so, you will continue unnecessary extreme environmental damage and loss and will continue to feed the pockets of a foreign corporation at the expense of those you are intended to serve.

Priscilla Lynch
Conway, MA.

BE HEARD!! NOW IS THE TIME to enter on-the-record testimony into the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s public licensing process.

HERE’S HOW:

Go to: www.ferc.gov; then to “Documents and Filings”; then click on the “Quick Links” tab for FERC Online on the right; and then to “eComment” on the page that opens. Follow directions for “Hydroelectric License/Re-license Proceedings (P – Project Number),” and BE SURE TO use Northfield’s FERC project number, P-2485, to enter your comments.

REIMAGINING A RIVER, Part 2: Not Nearly Hydro Power; Not Renewable Energy

Posted by on 17 Jun 2020 | Tagged as: American shad, B. D. Taubert, Clean Water Act, climate-destroying, Connecticut River, Connecticut River Conservancy, Connecticut River shortnose sturgeon, Connecticut River Watershed Council, Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, FERC, FirstLight, Fracked Gas, GHG, Hudson Riverkeeper, ISO New England, ISO-NEW ENGLAND, Mike Dadswell, Natural Gas, Nepool, Nepool, Phil Glick, Sam Lovejoy, Turners Falls dam, Turners Falls power canal, Uncategorized, Waterkeeper Alliance

THIS GREAT AND BROKEN RIVER VII

Copyright © 2020 by Karl Meyer ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Issue # 7, Part 2, REIMAGINING A RIVER: Not Nearly Hydro Power; Not Renewable Energy, Northfield Mountain’s Transition from Nuclear-fueled Net-loss Energy to Natural and Fracked Gas Net-loss Energy.

Author’s Notes: It is impossible to write at this time without mentioning the obvious. The country is in a moral crisis right now and it is time to stand up for the rights of Black people, and for the survival–and revival, of our democracy. This is a precious opportunity, one that we squander at our peril.

In the river-keeping world, there is also an opportunity for change that must be grasped now. The relicensing of MA CT River hydro and pumped storage projects is quietly moving toward its end game. A new model for protecting the ecosystem for coming generations is imperative. These licenses will govern conditions on the mainstem river for decades to come, and there is not a credible organization on the ground here that’s up to the task. The link below was forwarded to me. This is what’s called for. It will take hard work, money, and organizing. I hope there are those out there ready to contribute for the love of New England’s Great River.

https://waterkeeper.org/news/waterkeeper-alliance-to-appear-in-the-visionaries-series-on-pbs/


9-6-2010: Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station under EPA Sanction for violations of the Clean Water Act forced to dredge the hundreds of tons of muck they dumped into the River over a 3 month span.Photo-Copyright-©-2020-by-Karl-Meyer All Rights Reserved. (Click X3 to enlarge, use back arrows to return to text)

The Connecticut River has been running in reverse in northern Massachusetts for nearly half a century now. Daily at Northfield—125 miles from Long Island Sound, New England’s Great River is strangled away from its ancient gravitational course and literally forced to run counter to its nature. It’s not some bizarre phenomena related to distant tides, nor even some twisted water park trick. It’s caused by the lethal, ecosystem choking mechanisms of the Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station.

That river suction and reversal is the by-product of a massive, net-energy-loss, power re-generation scheme begun in the early 1970s. Originally running on the profligate excesses of nuclear power, today NMPS plugs in daily to suck giant streams of climate heating, natural-gas- produced megawatts from a bloated New England power grid. By yanking the river backward, Northfield’s huge energy and water appetite results in damage across parts of three states. Just a fraction of its ecosystem impacts have ever been fully measured and understood.

Since 1972 there’s been just seven months out of one year where those impacts were silenced. Beginning in May of 2010–and for the first time in the decade after Massachusetts implemented electricity deregulation, American shad passage at the Turners Falls Dam showed dramatically, exponentially, renewed signs of life. The big mystery was: why?

EPA-ordered Dredge Spoil Dump Site Mountain on Rt. 63 site after NMPS choked on its own silt and shut down for 7 months. Today that scar is covered by a friendly looking solar array. Photo Copyright © 2020 by Karl Meyer (Click x3 to enlarge, back arrows to return)

By June of that spring, with the abrupt silencing of grim river conditions created by Northfield’s massive sucking and surging, 5 miles upstream of Turners Falls Dam, the rising shad passage results could not be ignored. Fish passage in the river and up through the power canal past that dam was already known to be sorely impacted by the annual deluge-and-dearth flows that Northfield visited on the Connecticut. Without its suck and surge, ecosystem conditions changed immediately. Shad passage at Turners Falls soared to more than 500% above the average for the prior decade. And, no surprise, the New England power grid worked just fine without the daily addition of Northfield’s costly peak inputs.

The Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Project was designed as a net-power-loss, buy-low/sell-high, money-making cousin to the now-closed Vermont Yankee nuclear plant. It was built to profit by piggy-backing on VY’s nightly over-bloat of cheap, excess megawatts. With VY as its engine, Northfield started massively twisting the Connecticut into a broken, reversing knot in northern Massachusetts, 125 miles from the sea.

When it came on-line in 1972, NMPS corralled for its use a full 20 miles of river—slowed and stilled behind the Turners Falls Dam all the way into southern Vermont and New Hampshire at Vernon Dam. Since that time it’s been yanking the Connecticut’s currents into reverse and sideways daily, ultimately sucking them a mile uphill into their 4 billion gallon reservoir via net-loss grid megawatts. But with Vermont Yankee closed in 2014, Northfield is today juicing an ecosystem by gorging on climate changing, natural gas produced megawatts–which is what now powers half of all New England’s energy consumption. And, ironically, the bulk of traditional hydropower consumed in this six-state region is actually produced hundreds of miles away in Canada.

Plugged-in to run via four giant, reversible turbines, the Federal Power Commission in 1972 sanctioned NMPS to operate as a net-loss emergency back-up and peak demand regeneration appliance. It would do so by consuming 25% percent—or at times over 30% more, electricity than it would ever later re-feed into the power grid as peak-priced megawatts. After Northfield’s dumping in of its 6 hours of peak-priced, net-loss energy, it would then be completely dead-in-the-water and have to begin its daily cycle of gobbling up virgin grid juice to suction the river uphill again. Consumers would pay for Northfield’s privileged permission.

Upon start-up NMPS’s daily net-loss operations became the most disruptive and efficient fish killing machine in a four-state ecosystem. Northfield kills virtually everything it sucks into its turbines for hours at a time, drawing in at up to 15,000 cubic feet per second everything from tiny fish eggs to full-size American eels. That deadly draw is known as entrainment, with the result being all fish disappearing through its pumping turbines termed “functionally extirpated.” The daily carnage continues down to this day.


7-20-2010: Clouds of Silt Plume around a nearly-invisible French King Rock in the Connecticut River from FirstLight’s illegal silt dumping. Photo Copyright © 2020 by Karl Meyer (Click x3 to enlarge)

A 2016 FirstLight consultant’s study estimated NMPS’s operations resulted in the loss of just 2,200 juvenile American shad. Yet study results released in 2018 by the US Fish & Wildlife Service and MA Fisheries & Wildlife estimated the carnage from a year of Northfield’s operations was massively higher. Their study estimated a single year loss of 1,029,865 juvenile shad. And that’s for just one of four migratory fish species subject to its suction annually—the others are American eel, blueback herring and sea lamprey. Consider then, that there are another 20 resident fish species sharing that same Northfield reach of the Connecticut, plus recent findings that federally endangered shortnose sturgeon may also be present. The more NMPS runs, the more life it kills.

As far as Northfield’s massive energy consumption impact goes, here are a few recent statistics: In 2018 FirstLight reported to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that NMPS consumed 1.205 billion Gross Kilowatt Hours pumping the river backward and uphill to its reservoir. After doing so, it later reproducing just 907 million GKH of peak-priced power. In the following year, 2019, NMPS consumed 1.114 billion GKHs, while only actually regenerating just 828 million GKHs to send back through the wires.

The tritium-leaking Vermont Yankee Nuclear Station closed in 2014, putting an end to its 42 year run of heating up the Connecticut River—but leaving in its wake a deadly thousand-year legacy of high-level radioactive waste. Since that time NMPS’s net-loss megawatts have transitioned from running on nuclear to being the ugly by-product of sucking in the climate-changing megawatts from a New England grid largely run via natural gas. Natural and fracked-gas today supply nearly half of all New England’s electric power. And Massachusetts, living far beyond its means, is the grid’s biggest customer.

The bloated power grid all that juice is relayed over is today run, supported and marketed by the likes of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, ISO-New England, Nepool, and a host of private corporate interests. The public is essentially shut out of both ISO-New England and Nepool decision making, as is the media. That is living proof of the failure of energy deregulation here. We’re failing our kids.

In that vein, there is another way to examine the absurdity of NMPS’s benefits vs. ecosystem impacts. FirstLight’s Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station’s annual net-loss-energy consumption largely erases the output of traditional, locally-produced Connecticut River hydropower from FirstLight’s own Turners Falls power canal and Cabot Station just downriver.
FirstLight’s 2018 actual hydropower operations 5 miles downstream at their power canal and Cabot Station reported generating 316 million Gross Kilowatt Hours of electricity. In 2019 FirstLight again reported on those hydro operations, which totaled 357 million GKHs. There was a 398 million GKH deficit produced by Northfield pumping the river uphill in 2018—used to later regenerate second-hand juice. That deficit erased nearly all 316 million GKH of the hydropower FirstLight produced downstream. In 2019, Northfield’s deficit of 286 million GKHs whittled the contribution of all Turners Falls hydro operations down to just 71 million GKH of the 357 it produced. The river and consumers pay dearly.

FERC, today, is comprised of just four commissioners, three of them Trump appointees who consistently vote to sanction big, climate-heating GHG extraction and export schemes for giant corporations. The lone Democrat, Phil Glick, is the sole voice calling on the Commission to consider climate impacts. Piggy-backing net-loss, river-killing power on top of imported, climate-destroying GHG generation is a grim business. FERC and ISO-New England have fashioned a huge, consumptive system where the public never has to give a thought to its unseen, climate-killing energy sources. Their scheme has blithely conditioned the public to always having at its fingertips a seemingly-limitless energy supply—deceptively cheap, always on hand, and available at a moment’s notice. By design here’s no thought process involved; no downside visible. That, in itself, is a crime against future generations.

In its current, over-bloated, over-subscribed power configuration, the New England power grid could run just fine without the daily depredations of NMPS’s peak use. Solar proliferation has recently resulted in the addition of 3400 megawatts of locally-produced renewable energy, nearly tripling the imported, 1100 MW of brief, peak, second-hand output from NMPS. Particularly in spring–when energy use is lowest and fish are migrating, spawning and a river is regenerating its life, Northfield’s deadly use should be limited to emergency output only. The carnage needs to stop.


9-3-2010: The Mountain of NMPS Dredged Sludge Growing along Rt. 63 after EPA’s Clean Water Act sanctions. Photo Copyright © 2020 by Karl Meyer (Click X3 to enlarge, back arrow to return)

Ironically, while Northfield Mountain was being proposed and ultimately built, a new coalition of anglers and environmentalists over on the Hudson River fought off plans for a similar pumped storage station proposed by energy giant Consolidated Edison in the late 1960s. That very public and consolidated action by citizens saved both the Hudson River and the top of scenic Storm King Mountain from becoming cogs in a killer machine like the one here. The on-the-ground result was ultimately an organization now known as Hudson Riverkeeper. Sadly, a similar battle wasn’t waged here to save the Connecticut. The top of Northfield Mountain was blasted to oblivion to create a 4 billion gallon reservoir and two massive, mile-long water shafts were sunk through rock to begin sucking up a river.

That failure to thwart Western Mass Electric/Northeast Utilities’ pumped storage scheme occurred even though the Connecticut River Watershed Council would be 20 years old in 1972 when NMPS finally plugged itself in. However, since that battle for the Hudson, the Hudson Riverkeeper and WaterKeeper alliances have blossomed into key organizations in ecosystem protection, proliferating and thriving via a very public investigation, enforcement and litigation model. They are upfront and vocal about consistently taking offending corporations to task and prosecuting them.

The only solace in the River’s history here in Northern Massachusetts is that the public got wise to the environment–and to the unending downsides of nuclear waste and building fleets of reactors and river diversions. In the early 1970s Northeast Utilities proposed another two nuclear plants, twins, both to be built on the Montague Plains. Their hot wastewater would be flushed into the nearby Connecticut River. They never got built.

On February 22, 1974, Sam Lovejoy of Montague Massachusetts set about loosening the bolts and toppling a Northeast Utilities weather testing tower, installed there to monitor winds to inform the planning layout for nuclear emergency evacuations—just in case there might be a little meltdown at the twin nuke site. That act of courage and civil disobedience, undertaken with deliberation and with an understanding of its potential civil consequences, bolstered a gathering opposition to the project. It ultimately helped galvanize a growing opposition to dozens of proposed reactors across the country.

It was a combination of that direct public opposition, Lovejoy’s protest and the subsequent discovery of larval shortnose sturgeon by research biologists Mike Dadswell and B.D.Taubert that ended what would today be yet another sprawling nuclear waste dump sitting above the Connecticut River. Again, a strong leadership role was not played by the Watershed Council. What ultimately made the difference was concise action, public engagement, and legal action in the courts. This was a victory for those who take full responsibility for the public turf they lay claim to.

The Connecticut River Watershed Council just recently became the Connecticut River Conservancy, but it still remains an organization laying claim to protecting the mainstem Connecticut across four states while not employing a single staff lawyer. Nor has it adopted a mission mandate to enforce and prosecute–continuing the model of a CRWC legacy dating back to 1952. The Connecticut River has long deserved better.