Dark side of Canadian hydropower exposed in U.S. International Trade Commission investigation

PRESS RELEASE from August 26, 2020

Contact: Meg Sheehan, Coordinator, NAMRA
Email: coordinator.namra@gmail.com
Phone: US 508.259.9154

Dark side of Canadian hydropower exposed in U.S. International Trade Commission investigation of renewable energy imports 

Indigenous communities impacted by Canadian hydropower testify not renewable or clean energy
      Environmental racism, toxic water pollution and destruction of rivers by Canada’s hydropower industry were graphically portrayed in recent testimony to the United States International Trade Commission (USITC) in its ongoing investigation, Renewable Electricity: Potential Effects of Increased Commitments in Massachusetts.

      On August 14, 2020, Canadian Senator Mary Jane McCallum of Barrens Land First Nation and Tataskweyak Cree Nation documented Canadian hydropower’s destruction of free-flowing rivers that have turned them into “dangerous sources of drinking water, natural foods and toxic pollution.” Although Canada is one of the “most water-rich countries in the world” people living near dams “largely have no clean water to drink” according to Senator McCallum. 

      Tataskweyak Cree Nation on the Nelson River system in Manitoba submitted graphic photos of children suffering from skin rashes, fish with lesions and water quality testing reports showing the presence of E Coli and toxic blue-green algae that causes gastroenteritis and neurological disorders. Dams also create toxic methylmercury that enters the food supplies and poisons people. 

      In the investigation, the Canadian Government attempted to greenwash its hydroelectricity and laid out plans to develop the remaining 60% of Canada’s hydroelectricity capacity for U.S. export. 

      Senator McCallum asks, “how can we possibly call the energy produced by hydro megadams green, clean, or most importantly ethical?” and called on the industry to acknowledge its “contributions to climate change; the overt and covert racism and discrimination in both their practice and policy; sexual violence; and oppression,” concluding that “[h]ydro’s story is not one of civilized behavior.”

      Also participating in the investigation, the North American Megadam Resistance Alliance challenged greenwashing and asked for carbon accounting for hydroelectricity emissions and a truth and reconciliation process. Sierra Club’s brief claims that statements by Hydro-Quebec’s President and CEO Brochu under oath that the Canadian government does not support the industry are “unequivocally false” and asserts “imports of Canadian hydropower are occurring within a context of advocacy by foreign crown corporations for subsidies from the United States ratepayers using deceptive claims, in direct competition with resources that create more benefits for communities, families, businesses, and workers in this country.”

      The USITC is scheduled to send its reports to the House Committee on Ways and Means by January 25, 2021. 

For further reading, check out NAMRA’s blog post on this ongoing issue.