During my 20 years in the United States Navy, I worked with members of the Canadian Armed Forces. Our neighbor to the north has a small military relative to our own but their service members are dedicated to keeping peace around the world.

Canada is a fellow NATO member. They offered safe airspace to land stranded American aircraft on 9/11. Canada is our friend.

So, imagine my surprise when I read the breathless hysterics coming from Augusta about Canada meddling in our affairs as though the Aroostook War II was eminent. Let’s be clear, the attempts by state Sen. Richard Bennett to unconstitutionally muzzle Hydro-Quebec is just political noise.

In an op-ed, Bennett falsely labeled the normal, above-board efforts by Hydro-Quebec to deliver clean, renewable hydropower to Maine and New England an “affront to our freedom” that “occurred in plain sight” and “needs to stop.” (“Stop foreign meddling in Maine businesses,” March 23)

You’d think he was talking about Vladimir Putin, not Maine’s biggest trading partner.

Sen. Bennett wants us to believe Canadians offering to peacefully trade with us, and to commit resources to educate the public and legislature about that prospect, is an affront to our freedom.

If that’s the case, there’s a lot of effrontery going on. Trade between America and Canada in goods and services came to $718 billion in 2019, according to the Office of the United States Trade Representative. Canada is Maine’s single largest trading partner, with $4.2 billion in exchanges in 2019, according to the Maine International Trade Center.

Today, in the spirit of that robust history of trade, a Canadian utility wants to make its case why it should be allowed to share clean hydropower with us Mainers. That’s hardly the sort of foreign election interference we’ve heard about on the national level.

I can’t speak for every Mainer; however, I certainly would prefer safe, reliable, clean energy from a friendly neighbor nation than dirty fossil fuels from far-flung countries not overly-friendly with the U.S.

Guess who doesn’t want Maine voters to hear about clean, renewable hydropower. Texas-based oil and gas companies who currently have the corner on the energy market in Maine. We are more reliant on petroleum to heat our homes than any other New England state and they like it that way.

The oil and gas companies don’t want you to know that the New England Clean Energy Connect (NECEC) will remove more than 3 million metric tons of carbon emissions from Maine’s air every year. Or that the project will protect Maine’s 17.6 million acres of forest by ensuring two-thirds of the proposed transmission route follows existing powerlines created in the early 1900s. Or that the project will provide $15 million for new electric vehicle infrastructure.

They also don’t want you to know that the NECEC will provide $140 million in direct electric rate relief to Mainers and reduce wholesale electricity prices by $350 million over the next decade and a half.

Finally, they don’t want you to know that NECEC will employ 1,600 Mainers with good paying construction jobs during its building phase. In Somerset County, 360 Mainers have already started work at an average wage of $38 per hour.

This is the information Sen. Bennett is trying to keep from you.

If we could get past this manufactured maple leaf scare, we’d see what a good deal Hydro-Quebec is offering Maine. We are not talking about the Russians or the Chinese, we are talking about Canadians. Almost a quarter of Mainers are of French-Canadian descent. Many Mainers’ still have relatives to the north.

I will take clean, renewable hydropower over Sen. Bennett’s hot gas any day of the week.

Scott Strom is a former Republican state representative from Pittsfield.

(Editor’s note: An earlier version of this column misrepresented Mr. Strom’s status as an elected official. It was an editor’s error.)


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