Kennebec Coalition news release
November 15, 2021 (Augusta, ME) — Brookfield Renewable Partners (NYSE: BEP) (TSX: BEP-UN) is “greenwashing” its hydropower assets in the state of Maine to profit from investors seeking environmentally and socially responsible enterprises, according to a coalition of groups fighting for the removal of four of the company’s antiquated dams on the Kennebec River that threaten survival of endangered Atlantic salmon. Greenwashing is when a corporation provides false or misleading information about its actual environmental impacts.
Mobilizing finance and private capital to support the global fight against climate change was a central theme of the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference, which concluded last week in Glasgow, Scotland. However, corporate spin and questionable assessments in Brookfield’s case can mislead investors, according to Nick Bennett from the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM).
“Anyone who cares about investing in businesses with strong environmental leadership should stay away from Brookfield,” said Nick Bennett, NRCM Staff Scientist and Healthy Waters Program Director. “Brookfield is a bad actor here in Maine, operating dams that are killing endangered Atlantic salmon, violating federal law, and blocking the recovery of an entire river ecosystem.”
In its most recent earnings report, posted November 5, Brookfield Renewable Partners CEO Connor Teskey claimed, “As decarbonization of the global economy continues to move to the forefront, we are well positioned to capture the growing opportunity while earning strong returns for our investors.”
In Brookfield’s most recent ESG report, Teskey says, “We believe that maintaining a social license to operate is central to preserving capital, mitigating risk, and creating long-term value. In addition, strong ESG practices drive further economic value to our business and inherently create higher barriers to entry. Most importantly, operating a business with strong ESG principles is simply the right thing to do.”
Leading environmental organizations in Maine denounce Brookfield’s claims as a clear example of “greenwashing” and are calling on responsible investors to sell their stocks in the company.
“Brookfield’s dams on the Kennebec River in Maine are causing widespread harm to the river, and the company has spent much of the last decade refusing to take those actions that would actually improve the situation in a meaningful way,” said John Burrows, Executive Director of U.S Operations for the Atlantic Salmon Federation.
Brookfield also is facing scrutiny for environmental and human rights violations in Brazil. One of Brookfield’s companies, which owns the Barra do Braúna Hydroelectric Power Plant in Brazil, is facing a probe into the company’s role in floods that deluged the city of Raul Soares, and also a probe of environmental damage caused by another of its hydroelectric plants in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso. Brazilian authorities also are examining a plant and a sewage station owned by another of Brookfield’s subsidiaries that has been operating for years without a license. None of the investigations are mentioned in Brookfield’s annual reports, in Brazil or elsewhere.
“Brookfield presents itself as a savior for the planet, failing to accurately report its record of environmental harm,” said Jeff Reardon, Maine Brook Trout Project Director for Trout Unlimited. “On Maine’s Kennebec River, Brookfield’s Lockwood Dam in Waterville has failed to pass endangered salmon or other sea-run fish upstream. Yet, the company claims that the dam is a success and even shows a photo of the failed fish lift to demonstrate its commitment to biodiversity in its 2020 ESG report.”
Conservation organizations in Maine have filed a lawsuit against Brookfield for violating the U.S. Endangered Species Act and have filed a motion in federal court seeking a preliminary injunction to force operations to halt on four Brookfield-owned dams on the Kennebec River. These dams are part of Brookfield’s White Pine Hydro portfolio. Fish kills have also been routinely documented on Maine’s Union River, causing the Maine Department of Environmental Protection to deny Brookfield’s State Water Quality Certificate.
Representatives of conservation organizations in Maine challenged the validity of how the Brookfield White Pine Hydro portfolio has been evaluated through a Standard & Poor rating system that ostensibly looks at environmental performance measures. In 2017, for example, Brookfield White Pine Hydro received a score of 90 out of 100, or E1, on a scale of E1 (highest) to E4 (lowest) on the S&P Green Evaluation scale. Brookfield used the S&P “Green Evaluation” rating to raise $475 million from investors for a “green bond,” secured by its White Pine Hydro assets, to be used toward renewable power generation.
“This score is a farce and an insult,” said Landis Hudson, Executive Director of Maine Rivers. “Nobody should be fooled that Brookfield’s four dams on the Kennebec between Waterville and Skowhegan deserve a positive environmental score. Federal and state agencies have clearly stated that these dams represent a serious threat to fisheries that need access to upstream habitat. The best solution for the river would be to remove all four of these dams.”
The Kennebec Coalition consists of the Atlantic Salmon Federation, Maine Rivers, the Natural Resources Council of Maine, and Trout Unlimited and its Kennebec Valley Chapter. The coalition works together to advocate for the restoration of a healthy Kennebec River.