Fighting for Clean Energy
North American Megadam Resistance Alliance (NAMRA)
Megadam building to produce hydropower is causing a climate warming disaster, yet it has been rated as clean energy by states here in the Northeast aiming to satisfy projected state goals for clean energy through its import. In order to stop the dam-building, citizen action should be taken. Webinars and other educational efforts are currently being made to make citizens aware of the environmental cost in terms of production of greenhouse gases.
Hydropower is the creation of electricity through damming, followed by gradual release of water that runs through turbines. The classification of large or megadam scale simply relates the size of the project; generally, a large scale facility has an energy capacity of over 30 megawatts. Above that, it is considered a megadam. In North America, the Upper Churchill facility in Labrador, Canada on the Mista Shipu River has the highest capacity in North America at 5,428 megawatts (NAMRA).
The terrain surrounding these megadams is for the most part flat, producing large expanses of dammed water surface. A study published in BioScience in late 2016 showed that dams and reservoirs contribute 25% more to global warming than previously thought. The international authors determined that these reservoirs contribute one billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year. To make matters worse 79% of the emissions are methane which is 86 times more potent in raising climate change than carbon dioxide is. Methane does not last in the atmosphere as long as carbon dioxide does, but its effect is huge. Dams and reservoirs are planned for purposes as irrigation and flood control as well as electricity. Adding to the impact is the huge loss of forest cover in the areas cleared for dams and reservoirs. The carbon sequestering effect of all the downed trees is lost, adding to the greenhouse gas impact.
The human cost of dams and reservoirs is even more insidious when the destruction of the environment of indigenous peoples living in these areas is considered. The loss of native habitat for hunting and fishing has had an extremely deleterious effect on the lives of these people. Flooding releases powerful toxins such as methylmercury, which poisons the wildlife as well as the soil and water.
North American Megadam Resistance Alliance (NAMRA) is currently hosting webinars attacking the greenwashing campaign of Hydro-Quebec and other Canadian corporations supported by the Canadian government. If the markets for dirty hydropower can be diminished, the demand for more hydropower and hence new dams will be challenged and hopefully stopped.
On April 7 from 7:00 - 8:30pm the NAMRA is hosting a webinar, Voices of the Resistance: Indigenous First Nations impacted by Hydro-Quebec's dams and transmission corridors, explains the environmental racism of Canadian hydropower exports to the U.S. Hear the First Nations explain first hand why Hydro-Quebec's electricity is not "clean energy" but environmental racism.
The NAMRA webinar on May 5 from 7:00 - 8:30pm will cover Updates on the Climate Impacts of Canadian Hydropower. This webinar will review new science that confirms why hydropower should not be part of any climate action plan or the Green New Deal.
Registration is required for these webinars.
Marcia Wilkins is Chair of Sierra Club Connecticut’s Conservation Committee.
Check out our previous article on Megadams: Megadam Resistance.