With the recent news of contract awards to build the New England Clean Energy Connect (also known as “the Clean Energy Corridor”), Mainers have the trifecta: (1) major public infrastructure being built in Maine by Mainers, (2) at no cost to us and (3) to deliver clean, low-cost energy to customers in Maine and throughout New England.

This win, place and show have been the collective promise of the Clean Energy Connect from the beginning.

The winning horse came in April 8 when the Clean Energy Connect announced $300 million in contracts that will put hundreds of Mainers to work for the next three years.

Cianbro Corp. will partner to build the transmission line from the western Maine border with Quebec down to Lewiston, while line workers with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 104 will work on system upgrades to existing transmission infrastructure.

One year ago, the Maine Public Utilities Commission told us we could expect these investments. After 18 months of review, involving the active participation of competing interests (including staunch opponents), PUC commissioners unanimously agreed with their career staff, concluding that “positive and substantial direct, indirect, and induced macroeconomic benefits will accrue to Maine from the development, construction, and operation of the NECEC.”

As part of that same PUC proceeding, a number of intervening parties (e.g., the Governor’s Energy Office, the Office of the Public Advocate, the Conservation Law Foundation, the Maine State Chamber of Commerce and the city of Lewiston) negotiated an agreement that included a host of other benefits for Maine. Authorization to build the project is conditioned on this agreement, including its requirement that the Clean Energy Connect and its contractors give “preference to hiring Maine workers.” An added assurance.

The PUC also told us about the second-place horse: that “the cost of constructing and operating the NECEC” will be paid for by Massachusetts ratepayers and Hydro-Québec.

To put this scale of public infrastructure spending into context, the $300 million in contracts just announced is almost three times greater than any bridge and highway bond approved by Maine voters – ever. It’s also about 50 percent more than what the state annually collects in gasoline taxes, our largest domestic source for public infrastructure expenditures.

That’s just the beginning. When the Clean Energy Connect is complete, in 2022, total construction spending will be about $1 billion. This is a major economic boost to Maine, at a time when we need it most.

And in comes the third horse: The delivery of this clean energy will serve the economic and environmental interests of Maine and all New England.

Last month, in issuing its preliminary approval, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection found that, with required mitigation, the Clean Energy Connect will meet strict environmental permitting standards. The DEP also said the following:

“Climate change, however, is the single greatest threat to Maine’s natural environment. It is already negatively affecting brook trout habitat, and those impacts are projected to worsen. It also threatens forest habitat for iconic species such as moose, and for pine marten, an indicator species much discussed in the evidentiary hearing. Failure to take immediate action to mitigate the (greenhouse-gas) emissions that are causing climate change will exacerbate these impacts.”

The DEP continued:

“The Maine Public Utilities Commission (PUC), which has jurisdiction necessary to assess (greenhouse-gas) emissions from the project in light of its impact on the electricity grid, concluded that ‘the NECEC (project) will result in significant incremental hydroelectric generation from existing and new sources in Quebec and, therefore, will result in reductions in overall (greenhouse-gas) emissions through corresponding reductions of fossil fuel generation (primarily natural gas) in the region.’ ”

How much of a greenhouse-gas emission reduction? Three million metric tons per year – a reduction five times greater than the emissions coming from Maine’s most polluting electricity plant, owned by Calpine.

As if all of this weren’t enough, because the energy delivered over this transmission line will undercut the price of our dominant fuel for electricity generation (natural gas), Maine electricity ratepayers will save hundreds of millions of dollars over the 20-year contract with Hydro-Québec. So says the Maine PUC.

Is this a trifecta or the Triple Crown?

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