Press release from the Kennebec Coalition
November 15, 2021 (Augusta, ME) – Brookfield Renewable Partners (NYSE: BEP) (TSX: BEP-UN) “green” its hydroelectric assets in the State of Maine to benefit investors looking for responsible companies in the environmental and social plan, according to a coalition of groups fighting to remove four of the company’s dilapidated dams on the Kennebec River that threaten the survival of endangered Atlantic salmon. Greenwashing is when a business provides false or misleading information about its real environmental impacts.
Mobilizing private finance and capital to support the global fight against climate change was a central theme of the 26e United Nations Climate Change Conference, which concluded last week in Glasgow, Scotland. However, according to Nick Bennett of the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM), corporate effects and questionable valuations in the Brookfield case can mislead investors.
“Anyone looking to invest in companies with strong environmental leadership should stay away from Brookfield,” said Nick Bennett, NRCM scientist and director of the Clean Water Program. “Brookfield is a bad actor here in Maine, operating dams that kill endangered Atlantic salmon, break federal law and block the recovery of an entire river ecosystem. “
In his latest earnings report, released on November 5, Brookfield Renewable Partners CEO Connor Teskey said: “As the decarbonization of the global economy continues to take center stage, we are well positioned. to seize the growing opportunity while delivering strong returns for our investors. “
In Brookfield’s most recent ESG report, Teskey says, “We believe that maintaining a social license to operate is essential to preserving capital, mitigating risk and creating long-term value. In addition, strong ESG practices enhance the economic value of our business and inherently create higher barriers to entry. Most importantly, running a business with solid ESG principles is simply the right thing to do. “
Maine’s leading environmental organizations are denouncing Brookfield’s allegations as a clear example of “greenwashing” and calling on responsible investors to sell their shares in the company.
“The Brookfield dams on the Kennebec River in Maine are causing widespread damage to the river, and the company has spent much of the past decade refusing to take action that would actually significantly improve the situation,” said John Burrows, general manager of US operations for the Atlantic Salmon Federation.
Brookfield is also under scrutiny for human rights and environmental violations in Brazil. One of the Brookfield companies, which owns the Barra do Braúna hydroelectric plant in Brazil, faces an investigation into the company’s role in the flooding that inundated the town of Raul Soares, as well as an investigation on the environmental damage caused by another of its hydropower plants in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso. Brazilian authorities are also examining a plant and wastewater treatment plant owned by another Brookfield subsidiary 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 is promoting itself as a savior of the planet, failing to accurately report its record in environmental damage,” said Jeff Reardon, Maine Brook Trout Project Director for Trout Unlimited. “On the Kennebec River in Maine, the Lockwood Dam at Brookfield in Waterville failed to move endangered salmon or other anadromous fish upstream. Yet the company claims the dam is a success and even shows a photo of the failed fish elevator to demonstrate its commitment to biodiversity in its 2020 ESG report. ”
Maine conservation organizations sued Brookfield for violating U.S. endangered species law and filed a petition in federal court seeking a preliminary injunction to force shutdown operations on four dams owned by Brookfield on the Kennebec River. These dams are part of Brookfield’s White Pine Hydro portfolio. Fish mortalities have also been regularly documented on the Union River in Maine, leading the Maine Department of Environmental Protection to deny Brookfield’s water quality certificate.
Representatives of conservation organizations in Maine have questioned the validity of how the Brookfield White Pine Hydro portfolio was rated using a Standard & Poor rating system that ostensibly examines measures of environmental performance. In 2017, for example, Brookfield White Pine Hydro received a rating of 90 out of 100, or E1, on a scale of E1 (highest) to E4 (lowest) on S & P’s Green Rating Scale. Brookfield used S & P’s “Green Valuation” rating to raise $ 475 million from investors for a “green bond”, secured by its assets of White Pine Hydro, to be used for renewable power generation.
“This score is a farce and an insult,” said Landis Hudson, executive director of Maine Rivers. “No one should be fooled that the four Brookfield dams on the Kennebec between Waterville and Skowhegan deserve a positive environmental rating. Federal and state agencies have made it clear that these dams pose a serious threat to fisheries that need access to upstream habitat. The best solution for the river would be to remove these four 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.