Background on hydroelectric dams destroying Manitoba Cree
April - July
In the 1980s, a handful of rural activists DEFEATED a proposed transmission line from Quebec that would have devastated western Maine's remote mountain communities.
Because there were alternatives.
IN THE 1990s, a larger handful of activists in New York joined forces with activists throughout the US and DEFEATED a 1000 MW, 20-year contract that would have destroyed the Great Whale River, one of eastern North America's remaining wild rivers, in the name of "cheap" megahydro.
Because there were alternatives.
TODAY, Minnesota, your largest utility has made public its intent to AGAIN MAKE YOU COMPLICIT in northern destruction with its announcement that Manitoba Hydro is a finalist in NSP's energy supplier contest.
THEN UNPLUG MINNESOTA FROM MANITOBA HYDRO -- out of love for the rivers and animals of the north and the preservation of the wild -- out of concern for the Cree Indians and their families who live like refugees in an environmental slum -- out of the deep knowledge that surpasseth all understanding that you, as a Minnesotan with a moral conscience, no longer choose to be NSP's electric collaborator in the daily devastation visited upon people and the environment.
PLUG INTO what Minnesota values and stands for: energy renewables that do no harm. And respect for the rights of human beings.
On 6 April 2000, Northern States Power ended its "eight-month effort" to find new energy suppliers. It selected Manitoba Hydro to supply 500 MW starting in 2005.
An independent auditor selected earlier by NSP now will file a report with the MN PUC. The auditor's report filing could occur up to 3 weeks from now.
The 30-day public comment period (NOT a hearing) begins when the auditor's report is received.
Finally, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission must approve the selection of Manitoba Hydro.
Contact the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission at 651-296-7124.
"Only beavers should be allowed to build dams on our territory."
"Shocked: Tribe fears it would pay price for power line"
Environmental Justice and Energy Policy in the Upper Midwest
University of St. Thomas
15 April 2000
Hau mitakolapi naku mitakuyepi. Pat Spears le miyelo. Kul wicasa Oyate ematahan. Hello, my friends and relatives. My name is Pat Spears and I am from the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe. I am honored to speak to you today on the panel on the Human Impacts of Energy Development on Indigenous Peoples.
Indigenous peoples have provided the lands and energy resources in this country since the first piece of wood was burned by the non-Native immigrants who arrived in this hemisphere. Our people have continued to contribute energy resources from lands that have been taken from Tribes that contain coal, uranium, and the rivers that provide hydropower. It hasn't mattered if the Tribal lands were removed from Tribal ownership, leases or the right of "eminent domain". The resources are taken anyway, either by private industry or the government.
The sale or lease of natural resources requires approval by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the trustee of Indian Tribes and our lands. It's important to recognize where in the bureaucracy the BIA is located. We were first dealt with by the provisional governments of the colonies, other European Nations, then by the US Congress through treaty negotiations administered by the Department of War. It may be more appropriate to deal with the Department of State, but at least the Tribes had a more direct relationship with Congress.
The Bureau of Indian Affairs was transferred to the Department of the Interior which has other bureaus within, such as the Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Mines, Bureau of Reclamation, Bureau of Water and Power Resources. The National Park Service, the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the US Geological Survey are also within the Bureau-ocracy. This is the governmental agency that deals with the taking of lands, rocks, rivers, trees, fish, animals, and Indians. Maybe you never thought about it that way, but somebody did, because that's how Indian people were and still are viewed by many. Not as humans, but in the class of presumed inanimate resources and animals, which are all exploited in some manner. We do recognize that we are related to all life on Mother Earth. The animals, plants, wind, water, and even rocks have a spirit.
Most energy development does not consider the environmental or human impacts of development -- only the comfort and luxury of having energy to provide fuel for industry and automobiles and heat and light for homes and businesses. The external costs of damage to the environment and human health are not factored into the economic equation, especially not for damages to lands, economies, culture, and the lives of indigenous peoples.
You have heard about the environmental impacts and risks from the mining and use of uranium to the land, human health now and for centuries into the future; the drilling of oil wells on and off shore in the lower 48 and in Alaska where oil spills damage the ecosystems in oceans and on the coastal areas; the mining and burning of coal to produce electricity which produces SO2 and acid rain which kills the trees from the tops down and contributes to increased global warming and climate change; the damming of rivers to produce hydroelectric power that destroys and damages large ecoysystems, impacting plant, animal, and human life and also contributes to increased CO2 in the atmosphere and global warming.
People are part of the environment, too. The miners who benefit from the employment suffer from black lung disease and cancer. The Tribes who own the coal and uranium have not received fair market value for the resources until only recently. The Navajo who provide both resources, still have about one third of their people without any electricity. The Alaska Natives pay 50 cents a kilowatt hour for electricity from diesel-powered generators. The hydropower projects built for and in the name of native peoples are in proposed legislation to turn the projects over to the state of Alaska. The Tribes that have had their lands condemned by the government for private utility companies can never be compensated enough to pay for the destruction to the lands, vegetation, wildife, cultures and economies.
Along with the Lac Courtes Oreilles, the Yakima, the eastern and the northwest Tribes, the Cree, the Lakota and Dakota Tribes have paid and are still paying the price for cheap power for the rest of America! We have had our whole way of life changed by the construction of the Missouri River reservoir system for low-cost power, flood control, navigation, and recreation. Our most fertile river bottom lands and timber have been flooded. The wildlife populations have been decreased; our foods and medicines gone forever; our peoples' traditional homelands, sacred sites, and burial grounds are under water. Our people were forced to move from rural areas where families survived on what was provided by our Creator and lived a happier life in the balance of creation. I am reminded every day I look down the river and see the stumps of the ghose trees where I walked and hunted as a boy.
Entire communities, homes, schools, hospitals, and Tribal buildings were forced to relocate. A few Tribes moved some of the more recent cemeteries. Many did not have time, so the newer as well as the old burial grounds were flooded. Our families had to move into poorly deisgned towns with under-built infrastructures and facilities never replaced. It created larger population concentrations and reservation ghettos with no real plan to restore the decimated economies of Tribal homelands. Our people are still recovering from the construction of the dams in the 50's and 60's. The Missouri River is on the endangered list and is dying a slow death.
Vine Deloria, a Lakota from the Standing Rock reservation, and a respected thinker in many circles, has said that the construction of the dams on the Missouri River was the second-largest blow to the Native economies on the Plains since the planned extermination of the buffalo. Like the buffalo we are expendable in the eyes of those in power. The remaining buffalo live in national parks or with us on islands called reservations. The demand continues for use of our remaining alnds and resources.
At least they are not building any more high-head dams in the United States. There has finally a realization that they are destructive and were never cost-effective -- not even in the internal economic cost/benefits ratios, let alone considering the environmental and human costs. In fact, some dams have been or will be decommissioned in the northeast and in the northwest. People are waking up.
There are alternatives. There is existing low-head hydropower technology that operates much like a beaver dam, where life flourishes around the dam instead of being destroyed. We have renewable energy sources, such as solar, photovoltaic power, geothermal power from the earth, and the tremendous wind resource we have in the Great Plains.
The Department of Energy estimates that 75% of the total energy needs in this country can be generated through development of wind energy. This is with technology that exists today and it works. We can generate wind power on the Plains; we need support to use the federal power grid system to move the power to the people who want green power in the states around us and in the Midwest. We say Green Power is Red Power!
We need help in improving or developing the links in the transmission grids so that power can be delivered to the markets that want renewable energy. The Intertribal Council On Utility Policy sees the opportunity to generate windpower and connect the Tribes and communities in this area and in the Great Lakes eastern region through participation in the transmission as partners in the industry. There are solutions to the concerns and problems with construction of new power lines.
Large high-head hydropower is still being developed in other countries, like in China where they are damming the Yangtze and the dams planned in Canada where they will flood the Cree again! It is time to repsect the lives of Native and all peoples who do not support the continued devastation caused by the construction of huge power plants on the rivers that are the lifeblood of the land.
We need to work together to help the Cree Nation, help Mother Earth, and through this, help each other live a better life. Pilamiyapelo. I thank you.
Patrick Spears is President of The Intertribal Council On Utility Policy, Box 831, Rosebud SD 57520; phone 605-856-2173; Pnspears2@aol.com
Canada tribe says dam construction has destroyed their way of life
By Nikki Kallio
Wausau Daily Herald
16 April 2000, p3
MINNEAPOLIS - Part of John Miswagon's duty as chief of the Cross Lake Cree Nation is to identify the bodies of community members who have killed themselves.
Last year seven of the northern Manitoba nation's 5,500 people committed suicide, and 147 more attempted it. The community has a 92 percent unemployment rate, and hunting and fishing is gone.
All of this has happened since Manitoba Hydro built dams on the Nelson River in 1975, destroying the Pimicikamak Cree traditional way of life and causing a general feeling of hopelessness, Miswagon said.
Some of the power from a proposed 345-kilovolt power line from Duluth to Rothschild could come from Manitoba Hydro projects, utility officials have said. Power also would come from coal-fired plants in the Dakotas.
Wisconsin Public Service and Minnesota Power are proposing the 250-mile line because they say there's a dire need to increase electrical reliability in the state.
Miswagon, other indigenous people and activists discussed the effects of energy development during Saturday's Environmental Justice and Energy Policy in the Upper Midwest conference at St. Thomas University in Minneapolis.
Organizer and professor Steve Hoffman said people often aren't aware of the far-reaching impacts of development.
"Most people don't want to damage other people, and if they had a choice they would say, 'oh, I don't want to do this'," Hoffman said. "But the fact is people don't think of the impacts.'
About 200 people from Midwest states attended, including members of Save Our Unique Lands, or SOUL, a power-line protest group, which has members in Marathon County.
Roger Steffen, the Hawkins-based secretary of Save Our Unique Lands, said people should talk to legislators, petition and write to the Public Service Commission to help make a difference for the Cree nation.
"It already might be having some effect," he said.
Steffen said Minnesota Power officials originally said about 40 percent of power going through the proposed line would be from Manitoba Hydro, but later said little or no power would come from there.
Information from Manitoba Hydro said about 10 percent of Northern States Power electricity comes from their utility. The Minneapolis-based company's power coverage includes western Wisconsin.
Miswagon said if the power line is built, the Cree in northern Manitoba will experience more devastation because water levels will continue to fluctuate, eroding shorelines and killing wildlife.
Two years after the hydroelectric dams were implemented, Manitoba Hydro and five Cree nations, including Cross Lake, signed the Northern Flood Agreement, which was to provide the nations with some compensation. The Cross Lake Cree are just now receiving some benefits of the 25-year-old agreement, and only after it sued the utility, he said.
A March 6 letter to American electric customers from Bob Brennan, Manitoba Hydro president and chief executive officer, said the utility is aware of problems it has caused and has spent more than $396 million to mitigate damage in northern Manitoba.
"Our disagreement with (the Cross Lake) community is an anomaly," Brennan wrote. "We have successful, working implementation agreements with four of the five First Nations who are part of the Northern Flood Agreement."
But Miswagon said nothing short of restoring the natural environment will help the Cree. Miswagon, who is 35, remembers a much different childhood than kids born after 1975 in Cross Lake.
"My children will never have the pleasure of seeing what things were like in the old days," he said.
Copyright 1999 Wausau Daily Herald
Canadian Indian chief decries effects of hydroelectric power
17 April 2000, pB2
An American Indian chief from Canada told an audience of about 200 Saturday in Minneapolis that hydroelectric power, sold through Manitoba Power to Northern States Power Co. (NSP) and other Minnesota utilities, has destroyed his people's way of life, dignity and culture over the past 25 years. "Electricity that Manitoba Hydro sells to you is not clean, it is not renewable for you or for us, and it is not cheap," said John Miswaggon, chief of the Pimicikimak Cree Nation of Cross Lake, Manitoba, about 400 miles north of Winnipeg.
He spoke at a one-day conference on human rights and energy issues at the University of St. Thomas.
Miswaggon said dams and hydroelectric plants built in the 1970s and 1980s have diverted rivers, flooded forests, decimated fisheries, eroded burial grounds and ruined trapping routes. The cumulative effect, he said, has been to deprive his community of 5,500 people of their pride and livelihood, which has been replaced largely by an "underlying common denominator of hopelessness."
Last year there were seven suicides at Cross Lake, Miswaggon said, and there have been 142 attempted suicides since last fall. "It is my duty as chief to be informed immediately of every attempt, and it is my duty to attend every funeral, and it my duty to identify bodies that are hanging from trees, houses, you name it," he said. "There came a point in time last year when every phone call I got made me nervous."
Manitoba Hydro officials said it is unfair for the Cross Lake community to blame all of its social ills on the hydroelectric projects. "There was a lot of unemployment before our projects, and they look to us to remedy all their problems these days," spokesman Glenn Schneider said. The utility operates as an arm of provincial government.
Schneider acknowledged that the huge changes in river systems affected the tribe's traditional hunting, fishing and trapping activities, but he noted that in most cases the wildlife populations have recovered over the past 25 years. Fishing turned profitable for the tribe in recent years, he said, and the problem with trapping hasn't been a lack of animals, but a downturn in the world fur market.
He said Manitoba Hydro has provided $44 million (in Canadian currency) to the Cross Lake tribe to assist its members with hunting and fishing programs, and to compensate for about 2,900 of the 3,200 individual claims that have been filed for property loss and damage. Four other Cree tribes affected by the hydro projects also have been compensated, Schneider said, and one is working with the utility on a possible future hydroelectric project.
Past problems, preliminary plans for more dams and proposals for new power lines in Minnesota and Wisconsin have begun to draw attention and concern from some Minnesota environmental groups and religious organizations. NSP, which receives about 10 percent of its electricity from Manitoba Hydro, said two weeks ago that it plans to renew a major 10-year contract with Manitoba Hydro that expires in 2005, provided that financial terms can be worked out and state regulatory approvals are received. "Over the years we've had good experiences with purchases from Manitoba Hydro as far as reliability and economics," said Jim Alders, NSP manager of regulatory projects.
As far as the effects of hydroelectric plants upon the Cross Lake community, Alders said: "We think that's an issue that needs to be resolved by those closest to it: the Canadian government, Manitoba Hydro and the first nations [Indian tribes]."
Energy and social issues
That concept, called environmental racism, is "not much used in thinking about resource decisions, and hardly at all in thinking about energy policy," Hoffman said. "The question we need to ask is whether people have an opportunity to participate meaningfully in decisions that affect their social lives and the physical environment that they depend upon."
Other conference speakers cited examples of immense dams in India, China, Brazil, Guatemala and Indonesia that have flooded millions of acres of fertile farmland and forced about 90 million people to relocate against their will; proposals to strip-mine coal in southeastern Montana against the wishes of the northern Cheyenne nation; extensive uranium mining that has exposed native people to radioactive mining wastes in Namibia, South Africa, Australia and New Mexico, and large-scale logging, mining and river damming throughout northern Canada and Alaska without adequate compensation for tribal communities.
Sen. Paul Wellstone, D-Minn., who was active in a power-line construction controversy in central Minnesota in the 1970s, told conference attendees that they need to improve their grass-roots organizing skills to promote renewable energy and its favorable economics and environmental benefits. "Minnesota seems to go through this every 20 years or so, but honest to goodness, we're a perfect example of a place where it's in our economic self-interest to keep a whole lot more capital in our state if we commit to wind and solar and biomass," he said. "It's a big part of our future."� Copyright 2000 Star Tribune. All rights reserved.
Dear Cree sympathizers:
We had a small victory and then a bitter defeat on Thursday. Bad news first, followed by the good news, with a suggestion of how you can expand on the victory and help the Cross Lake Crees.
Bad news: The Minnesota Environmental Quality Board finally ruled on the scope of the Duluth powerline hearing to resume soon in Duluth. The Board members all voted to narrowly limit testimony about the effects of the 12-mile powerline to Minnesota only. No effects or impacts that the powerline shall have outside Minnesota borders will be allowed at the hearing. However, the Commissioner of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Karen Studders, did remind her fellow Board members that environmental effects do not stop at state borders. Why she went with the herd in voting to limit the powerline hearing testimony to only Minnesota effects is a puzzlement, then.
The powerline opponents from Wisconsin and Minnesota (except me) left the Board meeting in silent defeat when the vote was passed. The Board had announced at the beginning of the meeting that they refused to take any questions or to hear any comments from the audience regarding the 12-mile powerline. However, they did take testimony from Minnesota's Senator Bob Lessard who spoke against allowing testimony from Canadians on the powerline issue. (Senator Lessard is the key legislator responsible for preventing the Hydro Review Bill from even being heard for consideration in the Legislature this year. He decided to keep the bill from progressing because he had privately met with Canadian Indians and took their testimony into account.) Next, the Board took testimony from the lawyer for the Split Lake Crees. Split Lake Crees seem to express intense interest in getting dam-building jobs from Manitoba Hydro and are asking the Cross Lake Crees to give up their treaty rights--to simply accept a one-time cash settlement from Manitoba Hydro as they did.
I was able to get around the Board muzzle on audience testimony by waiting until the very end, after they finished all of their business. They had to allow me to speak because on my question card I had listed as my topic "MEQB Mission." I made them tell me what their purpose as an agency is. Then I told them that I as a Minnesotan represented the public interest of Minnesotans and of our environment. I told them--and several of them had left the meeting already, so not all of them heard my evaluation of their conduct--"You have made a grave mistake." I further told them that they would not allow a hazardous substance like heroin to be transported through our state, and by implication I was insuating that they had just let a hazardous substance to be transported through by their vote. Perhaps Commissioner Studders understood my meaning. I hope all of them thought keenly about the silent rebuke with which I confronted them on my wooden cutting board from my kitchen. On it I had taped a hand-lettered sign which said, "ENVIRONMENTAL QUASHING BOARD?" and I propped it up right in front of them for all to see.
So, now the hearing will be scheduled in Duluth about whether the 12-mile line should be required to furnish an Environmental Impact Assessment, or whether the utility can build it without first showing what the environmental and social effects will be. The hearing judge will now only allow testimony about the effects that will happen strictly within Minnesota borders. This is a defeat for environmental justice. But perhaps good witnesses can be found to prove that the powerline will be very bad for Minnesota--that could be a grand victory, if it happens, especially if it convinces the judge to declare that Minnesota Power must furnish an Environmental Impact Assessment.
Next, the GOOD NEWS! The Minneapolis Star Tribune printed two editorials which referred to the April 17 article about the Environmental Justice conference held April 15. Here are those letters:
I truly appreciated Tom Meersman's April 17 article about the conference on energy and human rights issues. Those of us who enjoy the benefits of international trade, whether in goods or in energy, need to be informed about the real costs of what we consume. I am especially interested in the plight of the Cree Indians -- so near us, yet beyond that information curtain that all too often extends along the 49th parallel.
-- Rhoda R. Gilman, St. Paul.
I agree with NSP's Jim Alders, who was quoted April 17 on the dispute over the failure of Manitoba Hydro to fulfill its 1977 contract with the Indians in Manitoba's Cross Lake community. "Alders said: 'We think that's an issue that needs to be resolved by those closest to it: the Canadian government, Manitoba Hydro and the first nations [Indian tribes].' ''
What I can't understand is why NSP would want to do business with a company that does not keep its legal contracts. Until that company gets around to keeping that contract -- or, treaty, if you will, NSP should steer clear [of] it. Otherwise, NSP will be guilty of environmental racism by collaborating with Manitoba Hydro.
In addition, NSP's eagerness to contract for more power from that Canadian utility calls into question its street smarts: how can NSP trust Manitoba Hydro won't pull a fast one?
NSP, drop Manitoba Hydro-electricity like a hot potato! Stolen goods might be cheap, but you've got to be crazy, or immoral, to knowingly buy them.
-- Diane J. Peterson, White Bear Lake.
I have been informed that our two letters have been posted on the Internet discussion forum of people who currently and/or potentially are shareholders of the Duluth company wanting the powerline, Minnesota Power. You can observe, and possibly participate in, commentary on that forum by going to: http://messages.yahoo.com/bbs?action=m&board=7083066&tid=mpl&sid=7083066&mid =496
The shareholders are having their annual meeting in Duluth on May 9, incidentally.
Gregory Scott, Chair
I thank you for taking time out to stop the hydro-electric holocaust,
Diane J. Peterson
27 April 2000, p3
The Minnesota Environmental Quality Board, reponding to a plea from Bob Lessard, State Senator from International Falls, voted unanimously to deny the right to speak out against the first leg of the Duluth-Wausau Power Line to many of the people attending their April 20 hearing on the first leg of the project, the 12-mile Hermantown-Gary West Duluth line.
The two most important groups to be silenced were the Wisconsin opponents whose homes and farms will be on the power line route, and supporters of the Cross Lake Cree whose indigenous lands have become what amounts of [sic] a vast energy storage facility for Manitoba Hydro, a major supplier of power to the line.
Lessard urged the MEQB not to "be wasting a lot of time on insignificant things."
As to the problems faced by the Cross Lake Cree, he pointed out that another band of Cree had demanded, thorugh their lawyer, to be heard if the Cross Lake Cree were heard, because their band deprives economic benefit from Manitoba Hydro.
The Cross Lake Cree live on their traditional homelands in an area that is both flooded and drained at the will of Manitoba Hydro. The water that sustains their ecosystem and their lives is also, to all intents and purposes, stored electric power. But it cannot be used both to sustain the lakes, rivers, and ecosystems and also meet the demands of electric consumers in other parts of Canada and the Northern United States. Just when the land most needs the water retained, because there has been little rain or snow to replenish it, that water will be "drawn down" to meet the power needs of the customers. When the land has plenty of moisture, and the water needs to be allowed to drain away, it is stored behind Manitoba Hydro's dams, causing flooding.
The cumulative effect, according to Miswaggon, chief of the Cross Lake Nation, has been to deprive his community of 5,500 people of their pride and livelihood, which has been replaced largely be an "underlying common denominator of hopelessness." Last year there were seven suicides at Cross Lake, Miswaggon said, and there have been 142 attempted suicides since last fall.
Senator Paul Wellstone, speaking Saturday, April 15 Environmental Justice and Energy Policy in Minneapolis, [sic] pointed out that Minnesota would not only reduce the impact on this group of people, but would also provide jobs and energy independence for Minnesotans by developing wind power electrical generation, and other sustainable, local power generation.
The Wisconsin Public Service Commission still has to decide on the plan for the Wisconsin part of the powerline. Comments regarding the impact on the Cross Lake Cree can be sent, as well as comments regarding Wisconsin. Comments should be sent to: Kathleen Zuelsdorff WEPA Co-odinator, [sic] Public Service Commission of Wisconsin, P.O. Box 7854, Madison, WI 53707-7854. More information on the Cross Lake Cree is available from Ann Stewart, at 612-871-8404, e-mail email@example.com
Information on the concerns of Wisconsin residents is available from the Save Our Unique Lands (SOUL) website at http://wakeupwisconsin.com.
[accompanied by drawing of a dinosaur's head with a forked tongue and the caption, "GEEZ! Even I got more heart than Bob Lessard!"...the article following was about the recent discovery of a fossilized heart in South Dakota.]
The real cost of what we consume
News from Indian Country
mid May 2000, p9a
People gathered to learn about the connection between environmental justice and energy policy at the April 15 conference at the University of St. Thomas, a prominent Twin Cities Catholic college. The conference was billed as an opportunity for people of color and activists to find common ground.
"I don't think we should be reluctant to talk about values," US Senator Paul Wellstone of Minnesota, and the keynote speaker, told 220 attendees. "Nationwide, people support what's called soft-path energy."
But this support for renewables like wind, solar and energy efficiencies, Wellstone pointed out, "doesn't translate into political clout."
"The utility (Manitoba Hydro) has a new contract with Northern States Power pending at the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission," said scheduled speaker Chief John Miswagon, head of Pimicikamak Cree Nation in Cross Lake, Manitoba.
"Split Lake's leaders want a new dam so they can get more compensation. Their people suffer as much poverty and despair as we do, but we've chosen a different path," he said of an unannounced appearance by Cree from Split Lake and Nelson House, Manitoba, and the CEO of Manitoba Hydro.
Although four large generating stations on the Nelson River nearest to Split Lake cause ongoing environmental damage, Cross Lake lies ten miles from the control gate for the entire Nelson River hydro system.
"Every drop of water released from the storage reservoir which is Lake Winnipeg into the Nelson affects my people and our land," Miswagon said. "That is why we tell our story on behalf of the Nelson's environment because this project continues to violate our human and environmental rights. Where is the justice in that for us and for Minnesota users of this power?"
Patrick Spears, president of Inter-Tribal Council on Utility Policy in Fort Pierre, South Dakota, agreed. "It is time to respect the lives of Native and all peoples who do not support the continued devastation caused by the construction of huge power plants on the rivers that are the lifeblood of the land," he told activists.
"The Department of Energy estimates that 75% of the total energy needs in the United States can be generated through development of wind energy. We can generate wind power on the Plains; we need support to use the federal power grid system to move the power to the people who want green power."
Jason Whiteman, Natural Resources Director for the Northern Cheyenne Tribe in Lame Deer, Montana, and Juliette Majot, Executive Director of International Rivers Network in Berkeley, California, as well as Chief Miswagon, showed slides of the human and environmental damages caused by coal production and large-hydro generation.
"I was horrified by the environmental pornography," said an activist from Minnesota. "I finally understand that special places like the Nelson, the lands of Lame Deer and the Three Gorges in China are being lost to all of us."
Speaker Dianne D'Arrigo from the Nuclear Information Resource Service in Washington DC, also faciliated one of tfour afternoon workshops designed for activists to learn more about specific nuclear, coal, megahydro and transmission issues.
The transmission workshop was led by Linda Ceylor, spokeswoman for Save Our Unique Lands (SOUL), a grassroots-based organization in Wisconsin. SOUL has teamed up with the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe to fight a 250-mile power line that will ship coal-generated electricity from North Dakota and hydro from Manitoba through Minnesota and northern Wisconsin.
At the beginning of the day, moderator Steven Hoffman, chairman of environmental studies at the University of St. Thomas, said, "The question we need to ask is whether people have an opportunity to participate meaningfuly in decisions that affect their social lives and the physical environment that they depend upon."
Rhoda Gilman wrote a few days later in a letter published in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, "Those of us who enjoy the benefits of international trade, whether in goods or in energy, need to be informed about the real costs of what we consume."
[accompanied by photo with the following caption: "From left, U.S. Senator Paul Wellstone (Minnesota), MIchael Noble, executive director of Minnesotans for an Energy Efficient Economy, and Chief John Miswagon (Cross Lake, Manitoba), at the Environmental Justice and Energy Policy Conference on April 15 in Minneapolis.]
When Choosing Manitoba Hydro
May 12, 2000
On April 6, Northern States Power announced the end of an eight-month effort to identify new suppliers to meet Minnesota1s growing electricity needs. Of the three finalists selected, a utility owned by the province of Manitoba will provide the most power. Manitoba Hydro will begin transmitting 500 megawatts annually in 2004-2005, pending approval by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission.
NSP says Manitoba Hydro1s electricity is a renewable, environmentally friendly product with "significant price advantages".
But a closer look reveals just the opposite.
For thousands of years before Manitoba Hydro came into our territory, my people, the Pimicikamak Cree Indians, lived in balance with our environment. We call this place Nitaskinan, "Our Land." Our elders say that the Creator put us here to benefit from its beauty, and to protect it from waste and destruction.
Three decades ago our northern ecosystem was re-engineered to generate power for southern Canada and the United States. Our community of Cross Lake is ten miles from one of the five generating stations built on the Nelson River.
We know firsthand the devastation that has resulted, such as collapsing river banks, shorelines piled with rotted timber, downstream island erosion, soil and water pollution, unstable winter ice, and flooded traplines. Our sustainable economy based on hunting, fishing and trapping has been destroyed, and welfare offered in its stead. In Cross Lake, we have 85% unemployment, deep poverty, and a widespread despair that manifests itself in suicides and suicide attempts.
In the aftermath of the hydroproject, the utility came to acknowledge that serious damage had been done to the lands and livelihoods of five Cree communities. In 1977, the governments of Canada and Manitoba and Manitoba Hydro signed the Northern Flood Agreement with us which was supposed to provide compensation and environmental mitigation. Twenty-three years later, their continuing refusal to meaningfully implement this Charter of Rights and Benefits is cause for ever more despair in Cross Lake.
The Nelson River1s generating stations supply over eighty percent of Manitoba Hydro1s power. Manitoba Hydro now supplies eleven percent of NSP1s electricity. With utility restructuring on the horizon, Manitoba Hydro wants to double its exports to the states, and plans a new dam on the Nelson River.
More export sales will exacerbate the environmental damage we live with daily. We have to tell our story to Minnesota1s regulators and decision-makers and anyone else who will listen.
NSP says that it is "monitoring the issues", and that the Public Utilities Commission is not "the appropriate forum" in which to discuss our concerns. What this means is that NSP relies on Manitoba Hydro for assurances that all is as it should be. In other words, the buyer accepts the representations of the seller, which is hardly a disinterested, objective party.
A few environmental organizations have witnessed the destruction. But no utility executive or decision-maker from Minnesota has come to us in Cross Lake.
Questioning NSP1s Choice
Minnesota's environmentalists are national leaders in promoting wind, which has quickly become a leading option for the future. However, NSP rejected a competitively priced offer of wind on the grounds that it requires new transmission and is too intermittent, in favor of Manitoba Hydro. Furthermore, NSP ignores the potential unreliability of Manitoba Hydro's power supply, which is dependent upon adequate water supplies and flow (both of which are unpredictable). NSP's refusal to address these issues persists, even after we raised them in a formal submission to the PUC.
NSP may not think this is a problem, but the Canadian utility has begun to acknowledge that it will require additional back-up power when water behind its dams is low. Manitoba Hydro plans to install 225 megawatts of gas turbines at its coal generating station in Brandon, fifty miles from Minnesota's border.
If NSP believes it is only buying green, renewable electricity generated from falling water, in reality there will be more thermal in the Manitoba Hydro mix by 2004-2005. There could be even more thermal in coming years as the utility attempts to improve its system reliability to satisfy the needs of the export market.
NSP had a menu of attractive alternatives, but it's buying the largest amount of firm power that Manitoba Hydro offered (also the largest amount NSP is procuring in this round of bidding). NSP wants to lock in Manitoba Hydro now before Minnesota's environmental groups ask the PUC to investigate the environmental and reliability concerns we substantiated in our submission.
If Manitoba Hydro wins, we believe Minnesota loses. The state will have thrown away one of its last opportunities before possible electric restructuring, to thoughtfully consider utility procurement choices, as well as the opportunity to formulate an energy policy that is fair for all.
We ask Minnesotans and the PUC to exercise their affirmative obligations and "kick the tires" of Manitoba Hydro's exports.
John Miswagon is the elected Chief of Pimicikamak Cree Nation. This material was supplied to us by Ann Stewart US Information Officer, Pimicikamak Cree Nation, 121 West Grant Street, Suite 116, Minneapolis MN 55403. Ann may be reached at 612-871-8404 or email firstname.lastname@example.org[Accompanied by photo with caption: "Dead trees along the shore of Sipiwesk Lake in the Pimicikamak Cree Nation's territory." Photo by Ron Niezen.]
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