Winona LaDuke: Native against Native on energy project

"A power company now has the opportunity to pit Native against Native, thanks to a handful of former tribal chairmen. Firetail Energy Systems (represented by former Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribal Chairman William Schumacher) and the Inter-Tribal Economic Alliance (represented by J.R. Crawford, former tribal chair at Sisseton-Wahpeton) along with Multi-Tribal Energy Co. and CEFCO LLC of Texas just became players in a very controversial proposal for a coal-fired power plant near the Sisseton-Wahpeton Dakota reservation in South Dakota. As a result, Otter Tail Power Co., the electric utility building the plant, is having a heyday.

The proposed plant, called Big Stone II, would put a 500-megawatt power plant upwind from the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate community and use billions of gallons of SWO water annually to feed the Minnesota power grid. The SWO tribe and other indigenous interests, as well as numerous environmental groups, have contested the proposal, which has also met with hefty opposition in Minnesota - a state that has a renewable energy mandate, not a coal mandate. Schumacher, Crawford and their associates have entered this decisive fray on the future of energy production by advocating a continued reliance on coal.

The ITEA and Firetail Energy associates have partnered with technology and business interests to market what is called ''clean'' coal, known also as ''carbon capture.'' The alleged techno-fix proposed by these energy entities and their partner, CEFCO, has some dubious underlying suggestions. There is, for instance, a suggestion that the technology proposed will create agricultural benefits.

''The CEFCO Process removes 99.9 percent of all pollutants [i.e. heavy metals, mercury, particulates, NO2, CO2 and other pollutants], and turns those pollutants from an operational expense [reducing pollution] into a profit center by producing fertilizers for agriculture, polyvinyl chlorides [PVC piping] and other product components,'' explained proponent Schumacher.

As he indicates, ''clean'' coal technology still puts lethal pollutants somewhere. Let me know how much of those ''profit center-producing fertilizers'' we actually need to be added to what is already becoming a very toxic agricultural landscape, and I'll be sure to add them to my own organic vegetable gardens. And by the way, polyvinyl chloride is a persistent organic pollutant and a carcinogen, probably not something to add to the food chain or piping."

Get the Story:
Winona LaDuke: Just because you can, doesn't mean you should (Indian Country Today 4/21)