Central Maine Power is pulling out all the stops to convince federal and state authorities to permit the construction of a 145-mile transmission line through Maine to connect electricity customers in Massachusetts to hydropower in Quebec, known as the New England Clean Energy Connect.

New Hampshire refused financial offers to serve as a giant extension cord linking Massachusetts to Hydro-Quebec. There is a growing opposition to a similar proposal in Vermont, too. Maine should also oppose a project that would irreparably harm our environment while providing no new renewable energy and no reductions in atmospheric carbon emissions.

Massachusetts’s attorney general questions Hydro-Quebec’s claim that the alleged “green energy” would reduce carbon dioxide levels. That’s because the company could shift electricity usage from its existing customers to Massachusetts ones to boost profits. Since the electricity produced for its existing customers would then need to be generated by burning fossil fuels, the net reduction in overall greenhouse gas emissions would be zero. Expert testimony at the Maine Public Utilities Commission hearing reached similar conclusions about “resource shuffling.” This is analogous, as my friend and local columnist George Smith stated, to “robbing Peter to pay Paul.”

If Massachusetts is so desperate for electricity, the state should develop its own energy projects. Why should Maine make sacrifices to benefit a state that is reluctant to approve its own large-scale, energy-producing wind turbine projects?

I testified as an expert wildlife witness at the week-long hearings held by the Department of Environmental Protection and the Land Use Planning Commission in Farmington in April. On Dec. 5, I testified again at a public hearing with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Lewiston, arranged by Congressman Jared Golden, D-2nd District. Former state Sen. Tom Saviello of Wilton, a project opponent, stated that project benefits to Maine citizens would be equal to receiving “a whoopie pie once a month.” Meanwhile, in the project’s first year of operation Hydro-Quebec would earn nearly $500 million and CMP would earn $120 million.

This project ranks as one of the four most environmentally damaging projects in Maine during my lifetime. Mainers rallied to defeat the Pittston Oil refinery, the Dickey-Lincoln Dam, and the Big A Dam. We need to rally again to defeat CMP’s New England Clean Energy Connect project.

Most damaging would be a new 250-foot-wide, 53-mile-long section of transmission corridor through one of the largest remaining intact temperate forests in North America. If constructed, the project would irreparably damage wildlife habitat, harm western Maine’s outdoor recreation-based economies, and jeopardize bonafide clean-energy job creation. CMP won’t even guarantee that Mainers would be hired to construct the project.

It was clear at hearings in Farmington and Lewiston that project opponents far outnumber proponents, and the gap grows daily. To date, 25 Maine towns along the corridor have voted to oppose or rescind their project support. CMP is responding to growing public opposition by airing a new, deceptive television ad that intentionally omits mentioning the company at all. This is yet another misstep by a company wracked with so much incompetence, lack of transparency, billing issues, and inability to adequately respond to power outages, J.D. Power recently ranked CMP among the worst utilities in the country.

Like thousands of other Mainers who don’t trust CMP or state politicians influenced by the company’s attorneys and lobbyists, I signed a referendum initiative that would add CMP’s proposed project to the November 2020 ballot. I encourage other Maine voters to do the same.

Let’s remind CMP that Maine people care about the state’s forests, its inhabitants, and our quality of life.

Ron Joseph has been a wildlife biologist in Maine since 1978.


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