The Recorder – Greening Greenfield will host an online forum on the FirstLight license renewal process

GREENFIELD – Greening Greenfield, an organization that advocates for increased energy and environmental sustainability, is hosting an online event to discuss how best to advocate for a more robust public hearing process for FirstLight Hydro Generating Co. with of the State Department of Environmental Protection.

The panel, according to a press release from Nancy Hazard of Greening Greenfield, is necessitated by community frustration with FirstLight’s slow license renewal process and concerns about the company’s environmental ethics. The event will take place on Monday at 7 p.m.

The Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP), which will review FirstLight’s water quality certificate application, currently plans to hold two public hearings, but according to Greening Greenfield’s Peg Hall, further details remain a mystery. . Greening Greenfield members hope their panel can educate affected residents on how best to act, with the end goal of certifying that the department is ensuring that FirstLight’s license renewal process results in appropriate environmental regulations.

FirstLight, owned by Canadian company PSP Investments, applied for a 50-year license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in December 2020, which would determine the operation of its Northfield Mountain and Turners Falls Dam facilities for the next half century. .

Montague city planner Walter Ramsey said in August that this latest license renewal process had been “a process of at least seven years.”

“We want to create a tsunami of letters to the DEP now, asking them to hold a robust public hearing process, so the public has an opportunity to talk about the river and the issues in time to make a difference in conditions. attached to the water quality certificate,” Hall said in a statement.

According to Hazard, State Representative Natalie Blais, State Senator Jo Comerford and Andrea Donlon of the Connecticut River Conservancy will “briefly share their involvement in the license renewal process to date and help us all better understand the process and the power of water. Certificate of Quality.” In addition, officials “will share their thoughts on what kind of comments would be most meaningful and influential during the public comment period.” The presentations will be followed by a question-and-answer session.

“While we’re not focusing on ideas for ‘conditions’ to be included in the certificate at this event, it’s a good time to start thinking about what we want to ask for,” added Hazard.

The three facilities being re-licensed – a hydroelectric pump facility at Northfield Mountain and two hydroelectric dams at Turners Falls – have been criticized in the past for their impact on the river and surrounding environment. The Connecticut River Conservancy said the dams affected fish migration and changes in river flow impacted wildlife habitats and caused excessive bank erosion. The Northfield Mountain Hydroelectric Pump Storage Facility has also been criticized for its impact on fish populations.

“One thing that really annoys me personally is the impact FirstLight has on our river,” Hazard said. “They use it as their own private lower reservoir for their Northfield Pumped Storage operations, but it’s a river, not a reservoir. This has caused unacceptable destruction to the banks and all life therein.

FirstLight maintains that it has exercised due diligence in terms of satisfying the public’s desires. In a statement, FirstLight government affairs and communications manager Len Green wrote that “actively engaged” discussions with “more than 20 local stakeholder organizations” resulted in “a significant investment of time, insight and valuable dialogue that was put into the engagement process”.

“As the Greening Greenfield site notes, utility-scale storage facilities like Northfield Mountain are poised to play a critical role in decarbonizing the region’s power grid by integrating utility-scale, intermittent renewable energy sources such as as future utility-scale offshore wind and solar projects, and save it for when you need it,” he wrote. “As part of the state’s DEP process, there will be opportunities further public participation, and we support a robust engagement process on these critical renewable energy assets that provide clean, reliable and cost-competitive power to the region.”

To register and learn more about the online event, go to GreeningGreenfieldMA.org and click on the Connecticut River photo or email [email protected] Registration is compulsory and limited to 100 participants.

Reach Julian Mendoza at 413-772-0261, ext. 261 or [email protected]

Melvin B. Baillie