Sometime late last week, a bunch of signs touting support for the controversial New England Clean Energy Connect transmission line project appeared all over Western Maine, including a dozen of them in front of the site of last month’s deadly propane explosion in Farmington.

The red, white and blue signs from a mystery group called Patriots for Clean Energy call for people to “Support the Corridor.”

Don’t be fooled, warns Central Maine Power. It insists the signs, despite their wording, are part of “a professional campaign to discredit the project” and undermine plans to bring Quebec hydropower to the New England electrical grid via a $1 billion, 145-mile line through Western Maine to Lewiston.

New England Clean Energy Connect issued pictures showing its sign, left, and one of the fake signs, right. Courtesy photo

“For our part, all we can say is we denounce this activity,” said Thorne Dickinson, an executive for CMP’s parent company, Avangrid, USA.

He said the company would never put up signs on the site of a tragic explosion, a tactic designed to hurt the project, not help it. They’ve also appeared in front of churches and other sensitive spots.

“This attempt by anonymous actors to mislead the public by pretending to be supporters of the transmission line is beyond the pale, and we condemn this action,” the company posted on Facebook.

Critics of the project called placement of the signs tacky, obnoxious and irritating in public posts taking issue with them and CMP.

“We didn’t have anything to do with these signs,” CMP posted, noting that it doesn’t know who put them up.

Dickinson said it is notably bad timing for a spate of fake signs because CMP crews are busy trying to restore power to Mainers who lost it in last week’s storm and don’t have the opportunity to do anything about most of them.

While some of the project’s critics question whether CMP is playing some sort of game, Dickinson said it has sought from Day One to be as transparent about the project as it possibly can. Its signs, he said, are clearly labeled.

The fake signs bear a similarity to the secretive Lewiston Friends of CMP Facebook page that is aimed at undermining politicians who endorse the project by hailing them excessively or facetiously for supporting the transmission line.

That page, run anonymously, claimed that before opponents of the project “get too carried away with negative spin and propaganda” over the placement of signs at the explosion where one firefighter died and others were badly injured, they ought to recognize there is “a very simple and common sense explanation” for them.

A post on the page stated that the lesson of the Farmington signs is to “get rid of our reliance on deadly and toxic fossil fuels like propane” and turn instead to green power sources such as the hydropower the NECEC project plans to deliver.

The power company said that “people pretending to support” the NECEC plan are posting the signs, not anyone who favors the plan.

Dickinson said there are “a lot of different tactics” being unleashed against the plan. But posting fake signs on a sensitive spot “is the kind of behavior everyone should denounce,” he said.

The company said it has “retrieved surveillance photos of the signs being installed on our property in Augusta.” It released images Monday of pictures of an unknown person “placing a sign in front of CMP’s Augusta headquarters, taking a photo of it, then driving off.”

“Mainers deserve an honest conversation about the impacts of this project, not covert actions designed to deceive them,” it said in a statement posted on Facebook.

The company said it is seeking anyone with information “about who is behind this appalling stunt” in Farmington to contact it with details.

Surveillance photos taken by Central Maine Power in front of its Augusta office recently shows someone putting up a fake sign. Courtesy photo


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