Massachusetts wants to put a transmission line across Maine, but won’t allow a gas line at home.

Massachusetts is committed to renewable energy, and it’s not afraid to leave a mark on the landscape to get it.

If New Hampshire officials don’t soon approve a 145-mile transmission line project, which would bring Canadian hydro power to the Bay State, Massachusetts will go to Plan B, a $1 billion transmission line built by Central Maine Power that would cut across 195 miles of Maine forest.

But when it’s a question of sacrificing its own landscape, the Bay State is not so aggressive. Plans to bring low-cost natural gas to New England stalled when Massachusetts courts turned down a financing scheme for pipeline projects that would have connected with gas reserves in the West. That decision keeps Maine manufacturers from taking full advantage of the gas boom that is lowering energy prices for their competitors in other parts of the country.

Natural gas is not a renewable energy source, but such a stark policy divide doesn’t make sense. Gas is a cleaner fuel than oil or coal, and the exploitation of low-cost, domestic gas has done more to reduce carbon emissions than the fast and welcome growth of wind and solar power. Even if Massachusetts makes its ambitious 2020 goal, it will only be getting 15 percent of its power supply through renewable sources and would depend on gas to generate a large portion of its electricity.

And because the state augments what gas comes in by pipeline with liquefied natural gas that comes by ship, Massachusetts is operating its generators with fossil fuels bought from repressive regimes like Yemen, and gas pumped from the sensitive arctic environment in the Gulf of Ob by the Russian government. A pipeline through Massachusetts that accesses American gas fields seems more sound, both politically and environmentally.


Gov. LePage was a leading proponent of bringing more gas to New England, and he is also a booster of the CMP project that would achieve his dream of Quebec hydro-power coming into Maine, even if it is just on its way to Massachusetts. Steven McGrath, who heads LePage’s Energy Office, has promised;Steven McGrath that the governor will make sure that the proposal flies through the regulatory process if the CMP project gets the contract.

That could happen. LePage has shown that he is more adept at halting projects than making them happen, but CMP has been working with landowners and local governments for the permits needed, so this time might be different.

If the transmission project is going to go through, however, it would be nice if the governor, who claims to be a tough negotiator, could trade Maine’s willingness to help Massachusetts in this matter with getting that state to take another look at a natural gas pipeline.

We admire Massachusetts’ commitment to fighting climate change, and the aggressive way it aims to meet its goal of reducing its carbon emissions by 80 percent before 2050. That’s a good goal, but they should not ignore less bad options in the meantime, especially when families in Maine need the kind of good-paying manufacturing jobs that come along with lower energy costs.

Comments are no longer available on this story

filed under: