On July 31, members of the Social Justice Co-operative attended and participated in the Muskrat Falls Inquiry Public Consultation held in St. John's. Find some of the media coverage and speaking notes from the event below:
Speaking notes by Daniel Miller, SJCNL Member
I wish to bring attention to an absolute failure on behalf of government and Nalcor to properly account for the human, health and environmental impacts of the Muskrat Falls Project. The failure to acknowledge or take seriously these impacts, or at least to sufficiently act on them, has been taking place from before project sanction.
There are five areas of impact I would like to address:
Indigenous Rights and Culture
From the beginning the Muskrat Falls Project has utterly failed to properly respect the Indigenous cultures and communities of Labrador. The well being of these peoples, their human rights, health and safety have all been afterthoughts, and even (it seems) treated as obstacles to be eliminated.
This has been very recently highlighted by President Johannes Lampe of the Nunatsiavut Government who just last week made public the failure of the NL government to act on the recommendations of the Independent Expert Advisory Committee on methyl mercury.
This highlights the failure of the government and Nalcor to act with the consent of the indigenous peoples of Labrador. Along with Nunatsiavut, members of Nunatukavut and the Innu nation have actively raised concern and opposition to this project for the last decade. All of their voices have been ignored, and oftentimes aggressively silenced.
These concerns have included the spiritual importance of the Grand River / Mistashipu, the cultural and historical place the river holds in the life stories of the Inuit and Innu and their ancestors, the cultural and social significance of traditional Inuit and Innu foods, the limitations placed on people to move freely on their ancestral lands and the erasure of indigenous identities and agency as a result of all of the above.
Altogether, the impact of the project on Indigenous Rights and Culture has an enormous human cost, one that the government and Nalcor has absolutely refused to acknowledge or account for. This is a clear failure of costing, planning and, moreover, an active dismissal of the rights and humanity of the people of Labrador.
Health and Safety
The active dismissal of the rights and humanity of the people of Labrador is the foundation for the second area of impact that the government has failed to account for and act on: health and safety.
As has been mentioned, the NL government has failed to deliver on the recommendations of the Independent Expert Advisory Committee on methyl mercury. The health impacts of methyl-mercury have been discussed widely and are very grave. The government's negligence in this regard is immensely irresponsible and it is not hard to see how many regard it as actively hostile.
In a similar manner, the government and Nalcor continues to refuse to address widespread concern about the safety of the North Spur and its integration with the structure of the dam. Many in Labrador have repeatedly expressed their concerns that their homes and communities will be flooded and destroyed in the event of dam failure due to the structural unsoundness of the North Spur. The government's refusal to independently, properly and publicly audit the North Spur has left many people concerned and fearful.
Again we see that the government has failed, or actively avoided, to account for and act to uphold the well being, human rights, and health and safety of the people of the province.
Other environmental concerns
There are other environmental concerns which the inquiry has not given enough attention to, but which Labradorians have raised repeatedly:
These environmental impacts are all intertwined with the fourth impact I wish to highlight: climate change. It seems that the carbon footprint of the project is something else the government has absolutely failed to account for. We must acknowledge that this carbon footprint is massive. Cement is currently responsible for 5% of global carbon emissions due to the energy intensive nature of its production and transportation. Meanwhile, the project has immense energy costs in terms of transportation of people and materials and ongoing operations. Adding to this, the clearcutting necessary for the project, including for power lines and other downstream construction, would have released an immense amount of C02. Adding to all this is the methane that will be created as a result of reservoir flooding.
That the government has never given a proper account of the carbon footprint of the project is again a serious act of negligence, given the dire nature that climate change poses to our global economy and natural environment. A true accounting of the carbon footprint of this project is also needed due to the evolving stance of regulators and lawmakers regarding what constitutes “green energy”. As the climate crisis worsens regulators are already taking a second look at large hydro-electric projects with the EPA cautioning that “large hydro-electric resources can have environmental trade offs on such issues as fisheries and land use.”
Financial impact on people with low and fixed incomes
Finally, it should be acknowledged that people with low and fixed incomes have been largely ignored by the sanction, planning and continuation of this project. While the total financial cost has received endless scrutiny, the ultimate impact in terms of electricity rate increases on those who are already economically struggling has not received sufficient attention or care. Minor electricity rate increases can have dire effects on individuals and families who are trying to survive in our already unjust and strained economy.
Adding to this is the changing nature of population demographics throughout the province.