Grantees Matt Hongoltz-Hetling and Michael G. Seamans won Best Environmental Story at the 2020 Maine Press Association awards for their Pulitzer Center-supported piece "In an Isolated Inuit Community, Concern Is Strong Over Water Toxins From Hydropower Expansion."
Part of Hongoltz-Hetling and Seamans' A Deadly Shade of Green project, the story documents how New Englanders' growing demand for hydropower has spurred the construction of dams that threaten the food supply and culture of Labrador's Indigenous communities. As once-wild rivers are flooded by hydroelectric companies, the toxin methylmercury is released and accumulates in the bodies of animals hunted by local Inuit populations for thousands of years.
"The impact of large-scale hydro on Labrador's Indigenous people is a critical issue, especially now, when so many American regions are considering massive investments in their energy futures," Hongoltz-Hetling commented. "But without the Pulitzer Center's support, we would have been unable to give the Indigenous, and their allies in the environmental community, a proper voice in the discussion. We're delighted that the Maine Press Association found value in the piece, and grateful that it and other professional journalism associations continue to support high-quality work in the face of daunting industry-wide challenges."
"The funding and support the Pulitzer Center provided made it possible for a small daily newspaper in central Maine to travel to the rural regions of Labrador to educate the readership on the impacts of mega-dam hydro power," added Seamans, the staff photographer at the Morning Sentinel who took the story's images. "There was no way I could leave our small staff for two weeks and travel 1,500 miles to Labrador. But, with the support of the Pulitzer Center, small outlets with funding challenges can still report these stories."
Founded in 1864, the Maine Press Association (MPA) is one of the nation's oldest professional news organizations. In addition to facilitating awards, the MPA provides workshops, legal services, and helps build business and editorial models for its member publications. To view a list of the 2020 award winners, click here.
The Pulitzer Center congratulates Hongoltz-Hetling and Seamans on the win and their work documenting this crucial issue.