Maine’s media remains saturated by conflicting opinions regarding the recent Maine Supreme Court decision removing the November ballot referendum for Central Maine Power’s billion-dollar New England Clean Energy Connect in partnership with Hydro-Quebec. The utilities spent $16 million on media propaganda, describing this as a “green energy” project. Not so.
In my recently published book, “Blue Deserts,” I make reference to “Science Abandoned, Scientists Muzzled,” an article written by Andrea Hill in Postmedia News, The Leader Post, Jan. 10, 2014. She stated: “The federal government ‘really doesn’t grasp what science is about’ and could be unable to respond to adverse environmental changes because it has abandoned research into climate change and water pollution, say scientists interviewed for CBC-TV’s The Fifth Estate.”
If the Canadian and U.S. federal government are trying to muzzle their scientists, suppressing environmental studies that reach back to the ’70s and beyond, it is probably safe to assume these scientific findings are based on factual information and are true. It would, therefore, also indicate that, although some studies may have proven heat pollution from mega hydro dams is warming downstream water and regional climates, the public has little or no knowledge of this.
Hydro-Quebec, on Dec. 14, 2018, told CMP: “Excess water not used to generate electricity is stored in large reservoirs for use in later periods.” This letter is in the Public Utilities Commission record. I submitted a copy to DEP and USACE, during the permitting process and requested an environmental impact study on long-term storage of fresh water.
Heat pollution has changed the albedo, or reflecting power of the downstream estuaries and coastal seas, from ice and snow cover to open water. Sea waters are now absorbing 90% of the sun‘s energy, instead of it being reflected away by snow and ice surfaces.
Scientists call this process “arctic amplification.” This observation is true, but a more accurate description would be “arctic heat amplification” fueled by heat pollution changing the albedo upstream and downstream of these colossal dams.
Hydro-Quebec continues to have the audacity to refer to its electricity as “green energy.” Existing research demonstrates that carbon emissions are warming the climate, too, but what has, up until now, remained hidden, is Hydro-Quebec’s admission — as far back as 1976 — that its James Bay project would not work without the heat pollution from its mega reservoirs.
Reducing worldwide carbon emissions to net neutral would have minimal impact on reducing Hydro-Quebec’s subarctic heat amplification or Russia’s arctic heat amplification.
Between 1970 and 1993, Hydro-Quebec built four colossal reservoirs as part of its LaGrande Hydroelectric complex between 53 degrees and 55 degrees latitude.
A 2009 Canadian study revealed permafrost in the James Bay region was rapidly receding and melting between the 51 degrees and 55 degrees latitude, and the average annual regional temperature had increased by 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). A 2013 study documented “three weeks less ice cover on Hudson Bay than there was prior to 1995.” Heat pollution from Hydro-Quebec dams has warmed the sea waters and Labrador Current, which are then further warmed annually by arctic heat amplification.
Compounding this problem is additional heat pollution from Russia’s mega dams warming the waters of the Arctic Ocean, which then flow into the Labrador Current and East Greenland Current. Russia readily acknowledges the heat pollution from its enormous dams.
The life of our planet is challenged daily in so many ways, not just here, but also worldwide. Some challenges we recognize and understand. Others, involving complicated details and players, remain hidden from view . . . such as heat pollution from Hydro-Quebec’s mega dams fueling the rapid melting of permafrost in northern Quebec and the eventual catastrophic release of its methane and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
According to the NASA Earth Observatory website, a 2016 report from the space agency concluded, “Scientists estimate that five times as much carbon might be stored in frozen Arctic soils — (permafrost) — as has been emitted by all human activities since 1850.”
Hopefully, members of the Say No to NECEC group, acting as citizen intervenors, as well as the Natural Resources Council of Maine, Appalachian Mountain Club, Trout Unlimited Maine and NextEra, through appeals, will be successful in challenging Maine’s DEP permit for the transmission corridor and lead to a long overdue environmental impact study on heat pollution from Hydro-Quebec’s hydroelectric reservoir dams.
Stephen Kasprzak is an author and conservationist. His recently published environmental book is titled “Blue Deserts.” He and his wife have, for decades, enjoyed summers at their cottage in Rangeley.