My Turn: Why we say: No license to kill

  • Connecticut River FILE PHOTo

Published: 2/3/2022 11:17:57 AM
Modified: 2/3/2022 11:17:03 AM

When we hear daily news about war, murders, deaths from disease and poverty, we may become numb and turn away. We may feel there is nothing to be done. But violence must not be ignored, especially when its victims cannot speak for themselves.

This is a call for us not to turn away, but to speak out against violence occurring right here in our community, not against people but against the Connecticut River and everything living in it. I urge concerned citizens to learn about and oppose the repeated and gross destruction of fish and aquatic life at the hands, machines and policies of the Canadian FirstLight Corporation.

FirstLight is applying to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for a 50-year license renewal to continue the carnage of their Northfield Mountain Pumped Hydro Storage Stations (NMPHS), which at night powerfully sucks in and pumps Connecticut River water, and all aquatic life in it, high up to its mountain top reservoir, to release later as electricity-generated ‘hydro power’ when needed — at higher rates of course.

FirstLight’s other facilities in the area also block annual fish passage, but let’s focus on the pumped storage. This suck and release system — with its devastating effects on aquatic life and damage to riverbank ecology — was conceived to use excess nighttime capacity from the upriver Vermont Yankee nuclear plant to release later at peak power rates. Buy cheap, sell dear.

When Vermont Yankee closed in 2014, there should have been a simultaneous closure of the related pumped storage station.

But no. The sources of electricity fueling the massive pumps changed; the utility’s economic gain remained. Now the station is powered by fracked gas plants, remaining regional nuke power, and Hydro-Quebec’s ecologically devastating massive James Bay hydro power project.

FirstLight plans to look at offshore wind as an additional energy source for the pumps’ deadly suction, transporting and using energy far from its source, for later generation at a net energy loss. Does this make sense?

But what about the argument that this “stored energy” atop Northfield Mountain is needed as part of a future green energy mix, a “battery” waiting in reserve for the intermittent power from solar and wind facilities?

Others writing in this paper recently have supported expanding rooftop solar installations, with energy produced shared in a local grid or stored in homeowners’ electric car batteries, in neighborhood battery centers or flywheel technology. Locally produced and consumed energy is far more ecologically sound than electricity sent through long, intrusive power lines making searing cuts through intact forests. The transmission line corridor needed to connect James Bay with Massachusetts utilities has been so strongly opposed, first in New Hampshire, against a White Mountains route, and then in Maine, via a Nov. 2 ballot initiative against the project, that construction is currently at a standstill.

Communities and ratepayers are better served by job-producing energy conservation measures that could cut energy use in half, or more, similar to German pro-capita energy use.

The climate crisis demands an open, public rethinking of how we can live with less destruction to the planet. What kind of Connecticut River do we hope to see flowing in the future? Will it be one of massive death, destruction of critical spawning sites and for-profit foreign corporations’ business as usual?

Or can our local communities speak out for the fish, the future, and a new measure of local control over critical resources?

If you haven’t written to FERC against FirstLight relicensing and for closure of the Northfield Mt. Pumped Storage Station, see how below. Find much information at and the related

Our aquatic neighbors and those that will hopefully come after won’t thank you directly, but humans, now and later, who care about the ecological health of the Great River will.

To comment to FERC, go to:; then to “Documents and Filings”; then click on the “Quick Links” tab for FERC Online on the right; and then to “eComment” on the page that opens. Follow directions for “Hydroelectric License/Re-license Proceedings (P – Project Number),” making sure to use Northfield’s FERC project number, P-2485, to enter your comments.

Anna Gyorgy lives in Wendell.


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