Home News Hydrogen company meets with Akwesasne 

Hydrogen company meets with Akwesasne 

A mock-up of the hydrogen facility slated to be built in Massena, upstream from Akwesasne. Courtesy Air Products

A company looking to build and operate a hydrogen facility upstream from Akwesasne has met with community members concerned about the lack of communication and consultation on the project, providing more details about the environmental process and timeline of construction. 

The meeting was held at the Akwesasne Mohawk Casino Resort Hotel on March 11, and was facilitated by community member James Ransom, who is a trained facilitator. He mediated conversation between around 90 attendees and representatives of Air Products, the company building the facility. 

“In general, I think the right word to describe it is ‘positive.’ It helped to shrink the concerns. It didn’t eliminate all of them, but it did address some of them. At the same time, there’s still some unanswered questions, so there’s still more work to do on the part of Air Products,” he said.  

A big concern from community members in Akwesasne was that Air Products had only been communicating with the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe (SRMT), responsible for the American side of Akwesasne. Community members wanted to ensure that going forward, Air Products communicates with the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne (MCA) on the Canadian side too. 

The meeting identified that the communication issue was rooted in Air Products’ lack of understanding of how Akwesasne and its respective councils work.  

“A lot of what arose was their unfamiliarity with our community. A lot of comments from the audience was that the (SRMT) isn’t the only government in the community,” Ransom said. “I think the company got that message, and we’ll probably see some outreach from them in coming weeks.” 

Air Products told The Eastern Door via email that they would be doing that outreach. 

“We were pleased by the attendance at the meeting and glad we were able to share details about our green hydrogen project and answer questions during the two-and-half-hour session with members of the Akwesasne community,” said Air Products spokesperson Art George.  

“We will continue our outreach and communication efforts as the project progresses.” 

Until now, Air Products had been speaking with the SRMT, which they had initially contacted in June 2023. The SRMT had reviewed environmental reports and called with the company to understand the scope of the project, but did not participate as a lead agency, like the Town of Massena for example. Instead, SRMT examined how Air Products is complying with state environmental laws. 

“Looking at the information that was provided, it seemed that the requirements of the law were appropriately addressed,” said SRMT environment division director Tony David.  

“They’re following requirements from the lead agencies. We’re not the lead agency, so we don’t dictate what those requirements are, but they’ve been forthcoming in sharing information with us.” 

Ransom said that the biggest concern remaining is with regards to the Massena Power Canal, with community members concerned that discharge from the cooling tower involved in the hydrogen facility will be put into that canal. Community members have worries that the sediment already in the canal could contain harmful polychlorinated biphenyl (PCBs), which are known carcinogens.  

Though Air Products emphasized that the hydrogen products from the facility will not contain any PCBs, community members raised concerns about the sediment already there, and how discharge might disrupt that sediment, sending it upstream to Akwesasne. 

Air Products explained that at the end of the canal, there is a manhole that would slow the velocity of the discharge, but Ransom said that the community wanted to see further modelling and examples of where that process occurs elsewhere for that concern to be adequately addressed. 

The community also expressed concern that there has not been clear evidence that the community will benefit in any concrete way from the project. Though there will be jobs available at the plant, and the project is a union job, it’s not clear how many community members will be able to work there and what the long-term benefits are for Akwesasne directly. 

Ransom said the sentiment was that the conversation continues in future.  

“It was the start of building a relationship, not the end,” he said. 

“I think they have some research to do to figure out who to speak to. The meeting was positive in that they better understood the complexity of our community, and understanding is part of their homework that they have to do now.” 

evedcable@gmail.com 

This article was originally published in print on March 22 in issue 33.12 of The Eastern Door.

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Eve is a reporter with the Eastern Door. She has also covered harm reduction and social justice issues for the Montreal Gazette, The Breach, Filter Magazine, and more.

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Eve is a reporter with the Eastern Door. She has also covered harm reduction and social justice issues for the Montreal Gazette, The Breach, Filter Magazine, and more.