FirstLight: our commitment to the Connecticut River is extraordinary

Concerns are to be expected — and they will be addressed as the license application move through FERC’s comprehensive review process

Hydroelectric power generated by the flow of rivers like the Connecticut is an excellent energy solution for New England. Hydropower is clean, renewable, and emissions-free, and it sustains local jobs, municipal tax revenues, and reinvestment in local communities.

Hydropower does have some environmental impacts - vastly fewer than producing electricity from coal, natural gas, or nuclear generation - and depending on how they're constructed, fewer than wind or solar farms. But they are impacts to be mitigated.

And when power providers are granted licenses to use river power, they have a responsibility to exercise prudent, balanced stewardship of the river and its banks and wildlife for the benefit of all its stakeholders.

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The reality of the enormous benefits, relative impacts, and responsibilities of hydropower are the context in which FirstLight Power hopes New Englanders will evaluate our relicensing application for our three western Massachusetts hydropower facilities.

With the recent filing of our Amended Final License Application for our Cabot/Turners Falls hydro stations and our Northfield Mountain energy storage facility, we've heard both praise and some concerns from stakeholders including local officials, the Connecticut River Conservancy, and others.

That is to be expected, and it's exactly why our license application will now move through a comprehensive review process at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

This process by law includes extensive opportunities for public comment and participation and for all stakeholders to make their voices heard.

For more than five years, FirstLight has engaged in extensive consultation and negotiations with Connecticut River stakeholders to refine and improve our license application. We've commissioned more than 40 exhaustive scientific studies aimed at identifying how to maximize the benefits of the clean energy we produce relative to its environmental impact.

FirstLight's plan commits to investing more than $130 million in mitigation measures and recreational improvements for boaters, hikers, birdwatchers, and other river visitors. We're also agreeing to forego more than $100 million in future revenue by curtailing production of hydropower during times of fish migration and spawning to enhance fish populations in the river.

With our new license approved, we will also pay hundreds of millions of dollars in local property taxes to support our local Massachusetts communities of Erving, Gill, Montague, and Northfield.

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We're confident that New Englanders will recognize that this extraordinary commitment of new investment, over $230 million in total, speaks for itself. So, too, does our clearly demonstrated commitment to follow the science on how best to integrate clean, emissions-free hydropower production with protecting and enhancing the environment.

Did we expect that 100 percent of stakeholders would be 100 percent satisfied with 100 percent of the elements of our proposal? Of course not - and the very purpose of the FERC review we're now entering is to find the path to adjusted relicensing terms that all parties can live with.

We encourage you to learn more about all we're proposing to do to enhance the Connecticut River, all we're doing to protect and augment marine life and wildlife, the environmental benefits of the clean energy we'll produce, and the economic benefits to western Massachusetts, including 70 great-paying, union-represented jobs.

We're confident that when you understand the full plan and all its benefits, you'll recognize that FirstLight's relicensing application represents an historic commitment to a vibrant Connecticut River, great jobs, and community benefits for Western Massachusetts, and to supporting all of New England in fulfilling our commitment to a clean energy future.

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