Stop STAMP, save Tonawanda and wildlife

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It’s time to stop abusing the Earth for profit. It’s time to listen to Indigenous people. All of Nature is our relations and should be treated with respect.

Almost everyone has benefitted from living and working on stolen Native land. It’s time to stop taking, poisoning, and discounting Indigenous people and the Earth. You thought it happened a long time ago? You are correct, only it has never stopped, not here in New York nor around the world. Settler colonial mindset is poisoning the Earth and harming us all.

You CAN make a difference. Climate Change is here, the good news is since man created this catastrophe, we can work together to change history. We must draw a line in the sand, loam, or wetland and say enough with the capitalistic insanity. Today, NOW.

Please help your neighbors the Tonawanda Seneca Nation. They’ve fought for thirteen years to stop the Science, Technology, and Advanced Manufacturing Park (STAMP) being built adjacent to their territory. Hochul and Cuomo have directed $100 million in state money to STAMP. There is NO infrastructure where STAMP is being built, while NYS has thousands of acres of industrial wasteland that is equipped with existing sewer and power lines. A State smart growth-good government analysis, named STAMP “a poster child of location inefficiency,” on the basis that “location efficiency is the essential element for successful economic development.” Recent reports quote Plug Power as having “substantial doubt about its ability to continue as a going concern.” The Buffalo News reported STAMP as Buffalo-Niagara’s biggest loser in 2023. As a taxpayer this is your investment and if they go bankrupt will be your clean-up.

Two companies have promised to build there – One is Plug Power, maker of hydrogen fuel cells, a dubious source of “green” energy given its distance from water, sewer, power, labor forces, and markets, according to WNY Environmental Alliance. According to the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety & Health Administration: “Hydrogen used in the making of fuel cells is a very flammable gas and can cause fires and explosions if not handled properly. Hydrogen is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas.” Terrifyingly the flames it produces are also invisible. STAMP/Plug is not even in full operation yet and they have had three spills of wastewater, imagine hydrogen in their hands! Seventh Generation Land Defenders state that an explosion at Plug will impact a twenty-mile radius.

Plug and Edwards Vacuum (the other possible tenant) have received more than $400 million in subsidies from Genesee County Economic Development Center, the NY Power Authority and Empire State Dev Corp. Despite this investment, GCEDC and its engineers have struggled to construct a wastewater disposal system for the park. Current plans are to build a wastewater treatment facility and a 9.5-mile pipeline that would travel through Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge and empty into Oak Orchard Creek and then Lake Ontario. No environmental impact assessment has been done for Oak Orchard Creek. No one can say what the discharge volume will be.

US Fish & Wildlife Service approved the permit for STAMP to run their industrial wastewater pipeline through the Wildlife Refuge. Investigative Post reported that discharge from the pipeline may also violate the Federal Clean Water Act. Economically, according to a 2017 NYS Dept of Environmental Conservation study, visitors coming to fish Oak Orchard Creek, Lake Ontario, and its tributaries in Orleans County alone bring $27 million to the region every year.

STAMP flanks the Tonawanda Seneca Nation on one side and is surrounded by the 10,000-acre Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge (INWR) and another 10,000 acres of state wildlife areas. The DEC’s Natural Heritage Program has identified this area as the most significant “protected” floodplain-wetland complex in NYS! Despite that and overwhelming public opposition to STAMP (Environmentalists from Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper, Sierra Club, Save Ontario Shores, the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, University of Rochester, Western New York Environmental Alliance, and the Clean Air Coalition of Western New York all oppose STAMP.) from surrounding towns and residents, permits have been approved to destroy habitat for endangered and threatened species and doesn’t acknowledge the Tonawanda people nor their treaties with the U.S.

In August STAMP crews spilled hundreds of gallons of hydraulic fracking fluids into the refuge in two separate accidents. Though this was reported to the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation they, nor the USFWS did anything to stop the construction. In September contractors spilled 500-700 gallons of slurry water and Wyoming sodium bentonite into the refuge and did not immediately clean it up. Only then did the USFWS halt construction of the sewage pipeline onto federally protected land. Adjacent Tonawanda Nation was not notified of either spill by the companies nor the government agencies whose job it is to protect us and the environment.

Orleans County then took the GCEDC to state court. Meanwhile the Tonawanda Seneca Nation has taken the USFWS to federal court. The Nation is requesting the pipeline permit be revoked and asking the judge to nix assessments that claimed the project would have “no environmental impacts”. The approval of this pipeline permit and subsequent drilling, violates the National Wildlife Refuge Improvement Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and the National Historic Preservation Act. “The Fish & Wildlife Service’s failure to consult with the Tonawanda Seneca Nation before approving this industrial wastewater pipeline violated federal law and the trust it owed the Nation,” said Jill Heaps, Earthjustice Senior Attorney. “Tonawanda seeks no financial damages aside from attorneys’ fees.”

“The Tonawanda Seneca Nation opposes the destruction of habitat by STAMP, which threatens our land and water, where we hunt, fish, and gather medicine and food. Our warnings were ignored and now see the damage caused by multiple spills from their industrial sewage pipeline. Likewise, noise, (erosion), light (and air pollution), and truck traffic all impact our community,” said Tonawanda Chief Roger Hill. World Wildlife states, regarding Indigenous lands: “Although they comprise less than 5% of the world population, Indigenous peoples protect 80% of the Earth’s biodiversity in the forests, deserts, grasslands, and marine environments in which they have lived ‘since time immemorial.’”

Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass author, said of Tonawanda, “it’s more diverse than I’ve seen in many years of botanizing.” She added, “today we have a chance to take a stand for justice.” Please go to Tonawanda Allies for action steps you can take. Nyaweh (thank you)

Trish Corcoran
Mother, social and environmental activist, naturalist, educator at the Harley School, and an enrolled member of the Tonawanda Onondowaga Nation.

2 thoughts on “Stop STAMP, save Tonawanda and wildlife

  1. Not so slight correction: The Indigenous people of the Amazon ARE protecting the land with their lives and have been for years. Guajajara and Indigenous Tembé activist defend their homelands in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest against illegal logging and cattle ranching. In Leonardo DiCaprio’s documentary, “We Are the Guardians” this can be seen. You may also find documentation from the Environmental Investigation Agency, Amnesty International, and the European Forest Institute. The Esa Eja Indigenous community in Peru’s Amazon Basin are fighting (and being murdered by) illegal gold miners and the Mayan’s are attempting to protect and clean Lake Atitlán in Central America. From southern most Cape Horn to the Inuit in the furtherest north, and all around the world, Indigenous people are and have been protecting the environment.

    Have you heard of NoDAPL at Standing Rock? Or how about oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, or in the Florida Everglades National Reserve, or in Bears Ears National Monument, and possibly destroying the greatest wild Salmon fishing on the planet by mining in Bristol Bay Alaska? These have been in the news since about 2016. All directly affect Indigenous people either by being on their land, destroying their water and food sources or running dangerously alongside their territory. This is an incomplete list, around the world Indigenous people are protecting the environment.

    How about Stop Line 3 (Minnesota) or Stop Line 5 (Michigan, Wisconsin)? Enbridge a Canadian energy company pumps 23 million gallons of crude daily through Line 5 a 71-year-old pipe that is 21 years past its useful engineered life. It has already had over 33 spills since 1968 and it runs the length of Lake Superior, crosses Lake Michigan, crosses 185 waterways, and runs alongside Lake Huron to Sarnia, Ontario. The Great Lakes hold 20% of the World’s freshwater and they are home to many more than people! Should we be concerned what is happening to some Natives in Minnesota or Michigan? YES. Are Indigenous on the front lines? YES.

    BTW much of the Amazon is not conducive to car travel, but many Indigenous peole around the globe do own cars and know how to operate them. We also have cell phones too, so we contribute to pollution, but the percentage of pollution emitted by Indigenous people or the average person is infinitesimal compared to wealthy individuals, corporations, and most of all the defense department (War). We should all ask ourselves what do we truly need to be happy? Most importantly we should be thankful for what Mother Earth provides for us and we should protect her.

  2. “Although they comprise less than 5% of the world population, Indigenous peoples protect 80% of the Earth’s biodiversity in the forests, deserts, grasslands, and marine environments in which they have lived ‘since time immemorial.” Slight correction. Not having the ability to damage the environment is hardly the same thing as protecting it. For example, the native tribes in the Amazon are not protecting the rain forest. They simply haven’t the technology to significantly harm it. If someone doesn’t own a car, the fact that they aren’t polluting the atmosphere isn’t a deliberate or even a conscience act. It’s simply the result of not having a car.

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