Fortis vs. The Truth

Fortis has publicly repeated numerous myths about the Chalillo dam and Fortis' interest in it.  Fortis disputes the claims of opponents of the dam, but never offers evidence. 

The Top 10 Fortis Myths are listed below, followed by the Truth.

Fortis MYTH 1: We won't go forward with the project if it harms the environment.

Truth: Stan Marshall said on CBC radio in April, 2001, that if the dam would cause "untoward damage to the environment", Fortis would not go forward with it. Now the evidence is in: Fortis' own consultants have said the dam would cause "significant and irreversible damage".  More than a dozen world renowned scientists, including Dr. David Suzuki, and all of the top ecologists in Belize have written to Mr. Marshall, to say the dam is "reckless" and should not be built (see Scientists Letters).  Mr. Marshall discounts all the experts as "environmentalists" and plans to proceed despite all the evidence.

Fortis MYTH 2: Flooding the Macal River Valley will not affect the environment.  The IUCN does not consider the animals in the valley endangered.

Truth: The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) unanimously passed a resolution (CNV028, 2001) which clearly states: "The Macal River Valley provides important habitat for endangered species of international value, such as the jaguar, Morelet's Crocodile, and Belize's national animal, the Central American Tapir (Tapirus bairdii)".  The IUCN, whose members include the government of Canada, is the world's largest organization dedicated to the science of conservation.  Fortis’ wildlife consultants, The Natural History Museum of London, found conclusively that the harm caused by the dam would be significant and irreversible—including the probable extirpation of the Scarlet Macaw from Belize.   Fortis cannot name one reputable scientist  who supports its claim that the dam would not significantly impact important ecosystems and endangered species.

Fortis MYTH 3: We just want to provide electricity for poor Belizeans.

Truth: Fortis charges Belizeans at least three times more for electricity than the average in Canada.  The high rates are directly attributable to the “Mollejon” dam, a dam Fortis owns downstream of the proposed dam.  Fortis’ profits are far higher for energy sold in Belize than in Canada: In the third quarter of 2001, Fortis earned $5.6 million on sales of 100 Gigawatt hours in Belize, and $3.4 million on sales of more than 800 Gigawatt hours in Newfoundland.  The contract Fortis has for selling electricity from this dam guarantees that energy from the dam is bought before any other source, no matter how much cheaper the other source.  Does Fortis plan to make a similar contract for energy from Chalillo? Any energy from Chalillo will increase Fortis’ profit margin at the expense of Belizeans.

Fortis MYTH 4: We aren't hiding anything.

Truth: For more than a year, Fortis refused to make public its contract for the existing Mollejon dam, or the contract to sell energy from this dam.  Now that these contracts are available at government offices (no copying allowed), it is clear why: these contracts guarantee Fortis more than $750 million Cdn over 50 years--whether or not the dams work.  If the dams fail, Fortis can sell them for $1 and walk away without any liability--even if people are killed as a result.  Belizeans are now suing to void these illegal contracts.

Fortis MYTH 5: Belizeans want this dam.

Truth: They most definitely do not.  A powerful minority in the government has made a deal with Fortis to build this dam.  Hundreds of Belizeans protested the dam and Fortis’ exorbitant prices in Belize’s capital on November 6.  This, despite a ruling-party newspaper that calls opponents of the dam “Enemies of the State”.  The government has forced a decision on the dam by its technical committee without public hearings.  Belizeans are suing over this decision, and won the first round in this case before the Supreme Court of the country.

Fortis MYTH 6: We will let the government of Belize decide.

Truth: The Prime Minister of Belize has said that Fortis will  make the final decision on the dam (quoted in Latin American Newsletters).  On CBC Disclosure the PM says that Belize has an "understanding" that electricity rates will go down when the dam is built.  On the same program, Stan Marshall, CEO of Fortis, said rates would likely go up. While a few powerful Belizean politicians are aiding Fortis, Fortis will be the greatest beneficiary of this dam.  Stan Marshall travels often to Belize to press government officials to approve the dam.  While Fortis refuses to take responsibility, it is calling all the shots. It stands to make a very big profit at the expense of Belizeans.

Fortis MYTH 7: The Chalillo dam would be the cheapest source of electricity.

Truth: Energy from Mexico is much cheaper.  Energy produced by burning sugar cane waste (Bagasse) would also be cheaper.  Fortis refuses to admit how much it would charge Belizeans for energy from the dam, but its contract will guarantee that Belizeans have to buy energy from the dam before any cheaper source at any time.  If Chalillo is the cheapest option, why does Fortis need such a contract?

Fortis MYTH 8: Fortis will buy electricity from Bagasse (produced from sugar cane waste).

Truth: Fortis has signed a "memorandum of understanding" agreeing to buy electricity from Bagasse.  Since this agreement, Fortis has tried to squeeze out Bagasse by running a "competition" for power generation, in which Fortis sets the rules and Fortis will decide the outcome. Chalillo and Fortis' diesel and gas plants are exempt from this competition.  By building Chalillo first, Fortis ensures its monopoly, and will make the sugar industry wait for years.  Fortis’ Environmental Impact Assessment projected purchases of Bagasse to begin in 2007, if ever.  Energy from Bagasse is clean, cheaper than energy from the dam, and would provide critical support for the sugar cane industry which has 10,000 workers.

Fortis MYTH 9: The dam will not affect the Scarlet Macaw.

Truth: All the world's experts agree: the Scarlet Macaw found in Belize is a subspecies, found only in that region.  Fewer than one thousand remain in the world; 200 or fewer in Belize. It is estimated that only one in five birds nest at any given time. All of the Scarlet Macaw’s known nesting sites in Belize are in the area that would be flooded.  The Natural History Museum of London found that building the dam would probably wipe out the Scarlet Macaw from Belize, and make its extinction in the region much more likely.

Fortis MYTH 10: There is only small opposition to the dam.

Truth: More than 30,000 people from around the world have sent letters and emails to Fortis, urging cancellation of the project.  Citizens in Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and New Brunswick have protested at Fortis properties, and demand that Fortis stop this project.  The opposition to Fortis' project will only grow stronger as the truth emerges.

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