The Dark Side of First Light's Dam Proposal

Rick Purcell and I attended a rally opposing the 50-year extension of the operating license of the First Light energy-pumped storage facility in Northfield on the Connecticut River.

    The environmental impacts of the power station remain inadequate. While there I readily detected an additional environmental issue so far not accounted for, but which is only now being added to the review process for licensing dams.

First Light fills a mountaintop reservoir with water pumped from the Connecticut River by electricity generated from fossil fuels, and they do this every day. Then they produce electricity when the price is high in the evening hours by letting the water run down again through energy-generating turbines and they do this every day. The sheer size of their reservoir means that under low flow conditions under cover of darkness, they may suck dry a three-mile stretch of the river and then refill it the next evening. They suck up all the biomass, algae, leaves, fish, and poop from upstream cattle with the water, killing every organism with the turbine blades and pressure changes in their plumbing. This stews for 18 hours in their upper pool where the mud must be putrid indeed. Then the dead water rushes downhill to generate electricity before exiting back into the Connecticut  River.

The Connecticut River Conservancy offers a clear and compelling analysis of the environmental harm this power station has caused, so far, and will only accelerate the harm in the future.  

Many of the people at the Rally on the 28th were Nipmuc Native Americans. The Nipmuc is the only Massachusetts-recognized Indian tribe, although they don't have federal tribal status. They operate as a 501c3. They gave a good speech about their past history with Connecticut and what the land means to them, and how the First Light facility is a desecration of their values. Those values are similar to the Shintoism of Japan and indigenous peoples around the world who respect what supports human life.

In my experience pumped storage is a bogus approach to de-carbonizing electricity which can be applied only on a minor scale in Massachusetts topography and which consumes energy produced by carbon-intensive means (in inevitable mechanical losses.)  The company is owned by Canadian pension funds and is registered in the State of Delaware. They make money by playing price differentials in the Massachusetts energy markets, then send your money and mine to Canada.

This is a clear and obvious violation of the environmental stance of the Green Party.  It deserves far more attention than we've been giving it.

Frank Jeffers

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  • Jack Swindlehurst
    published this page in News 2023-06-01 22:48:53 -0400