I am writing in response to the column by Ernie Hilton and Adam Lee which argued against the Central Maine Power transmission line from Hydro-Quebec through Maine and on to Boston (“Maine Compass: Central Maine Power transmission line project raises red flags,” March 19). In my opinion, the column misses the big picture. The power line would bring clean energy to Massachusetts that would dramatically reduce hydrocarbon emissions and could potentially do so in Maine as well. While Hilton and Lee state that the Gov. Paul LePage’s support for the project is “baffling,” I believe it is the opposition to the use of hydropower to reduce carbon emissions that is baffling.

Leading climate scientists, starting with former NASA climatologist James Hansen, believe that unless carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is kept at or below 350 parts per million climate change will accelerate and become uncontrollable. Atmospheric CO2 now exceeds 400 parts per million. Yet most environmental groups have not adopted a sufficient sense of urgency about this looming threat. Their support for solar and wind power is admirable, but it would take decades for those sources to eliminate the use of hydrocarbons in producing New England’s electricity. We absolutely don’t have that time to wait, and inexpensive clean energy could facilitate the use of electric vehicles, heat pumps and many other technologies that could reduce our carbon footprint. Right now, 47 percent of New England electricity is generated from natural gas and 31 percent from nuclear. Several aging nuclear plants are likely to shut down. I haven’t heard a plan from Hydro-Quebec opponents that addresses that challenge.

The opponents raise the issue of a power line running over the Appalachian Trail, wetlands and streams. There are already power lines at these sites. It is said that the line would cross the AT three times, but all those crossings are within 300 yards, and CMP has offered to reroute that small section of the trail. I have been an avid hiker all my life and really enjoy northern New England hiking, where you enter the northern hardwood forest, hike up to the boreal forest and then over the tree line into the alpine tundra. All three of these zones are threatened by climate change, and without prompt and aggressive action, there will no longer be an alpine zone in New England. If I had to choose between walking under a power line and no longer being to hike above the tree line, that would be easy. And we have a choice. If you are worried about fish, warming and acidified water is the big threat.

There is a larger issue that every individual, corporation and government entity on this planet has a responsibility to make the hard decisions to do their part to reduce emissions. We like to blame big oil, big coal, big utilities like CMP, and government. Fair enough, but we are the consumers. If we believe in this threat and feel a sense of responsibility for our children and grandchildren, we need to sacrifice some personal luxuries. We should be driving efficient vehicles, and limiting air travel and material consumption, to name a few. We all have a part to play, and we need to do so now.

From an economic point of view, there will be some short-term construction jobs, but there is also an opportunity to bring very low-cost clean energy to Maine. As a Whitefield selectman, I see how many people struggle to pay their property taxes. For the towns through which the line would pass, there will be a major increase in the tax base, a big help to taxpayers.

Much of our environmental thinking predates our awareness of climate change. Do you remember the “split wood not atoms” days? We now must weigh the relative impact of a power line, as just one example, and the total upheaval of our ecosystem. We can’t just take a position that a power line might hurt our tourism, but the climate threat is for others to solve. It is for everyone to solve.

I urge Maine’s environmentalists to support the Hydro-Quebec line for the protection of our planet.

Tony Marple lives in Whitefield, where he is chairman of the Board of Selectmen.


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