FirstLight responds to assertions, accusations contained in column


Published: 3/15/2020 5:27:23 PM

FirstLight Power was disappointed that The Recorder published the March 4 opinion column “Tired of the failure to restore migratory fish runs in New England’s great river” by Andrew Fisk, which makes false assertions, accuses us of breaking federal law, and presents a misleading perspective of our contributions to the community. FirstLight offers the following responses to the assertions and accusations contained in the column.

1. The Connecticut River Conservancy asserts that our Northfield Mountain and Turners Falls hydroelectric facilities “earn hundreds of millions of dollars more than the company has publicly reported to the federal government.’’ This is false and unfounded. FirstLight has a legal obligation to accurately report our finances and income statements to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which we have done in accordance with federal law. We are audited every year by a nationally known and recognized accounting firm. It’s astonishing that The Recorder allowed this unsupported allegation of lawbreaking to be published without making any effort to ask FirstLight if it is true — which it is not.

2. The Conservancy alleges that FirstLight “invited” the former Environmental Protection Agency administrator and the current FERC chairman to visit our Massachusetts hydropower facilities. Again, this is entirely false. The origin of that visit was a phone call received by our plant manager in mid-January 2018 by a government administrator requesting the visit as part of a series of tours of actual energy infrastructure, which was a priority of both officials. FirstLight is a federally-regulated company and as such when any of FirstLight’s regulators ask to visit our facilities, we say yes. As for the claim that the visit was an effort to influence the pending relicensing process, that is also false. Relicensing was not a topic of discussion in accordance with rules governing ex parte communications, rules that FirstLight has consistently followed.

3. FirstLight and our predecessor companies have a decades-long record of welcoming thousands of visitors every year to enjoy the Northfield Mountain Recreation & Environmental Center, Barton Cove and its campground, the Turners Falls Fishway, and our Connecticut River cruise on the “Heritage” up the beautiful French King Gorge. In our company mission statement, we make it clear: “We are dedicated to being conscientious stewards promoting a greener environment in our communities.” In addition to providing more than $16 million in property taxes to Franklin County towns, we support many local environmental, economic development and community support groups, including the Connecticut River Conservancy. We are a proud union company and among the top employers in Franklin County. We have been proud collaborators with CRC on their Source to Sea cleanup, organizing the Gill-Montague teams, with hundreds of volunteers every year, for over 20 years. CRC and many other stakeholders are very engaged in our ongoing federal relicensing process, and we welcome their engagement. We have been participating in this federally-managed process in good faith, and we hope that other organizations will as well.

4. Cabot Station is the largest zero carbon emitting generation resource in Massachusetts and Northfield Mountain is, by a large margin, the largest energy storage facility in New England. Together, they produce and enable the generation of renewable energy when it’s most needed, thus ensuring a cleaner and more reliable grid. This cannot be understated and should not be ignored.

We recognize that there are strong opinions on all sides about the ongoing relicensing of our facilities. Even so, we find it highly unfortunate that The Recorder chose to publish this inaccurate, inflammatory column, which only distracts from the real issues and distorts the truth. We do appreciate The Recorder giving us the chance to state the facts and to reiterate our proven commitment to being the best neighbor we can be to Erving, Gill, Montague, Greenfield and Northfield while building a cleaner, more reliable energy future for Franklin County and New England.

Len Greene is director of government affairs & communications for FirstLight Power.


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