This summer has brought home the stark truth that climate change impacts are not just projected future events but a current reality and accelerating faster even than predicted: floods in the U.S. and around the world, deadly record heat and wildfires in the American West, unprecedented rain on Greenland’s ice sheet, and startling speeds of melting at both poles.

Maine has been spared the worst of these so far, but even here there are signs it is overtaking us. Towns are forced to set up cooling shelters, public works departments deal with increasing numbers of road washouts and trees falling on power lines, and coastal towns see rising seas putting shoreline infrastructure at risk.

As scary as the prospect of the planet hurtling toward an unimaginable future is, what is scarier to me is our slowness to act, and our tendency to argue over one form of renewable energy versus another, or whether a new transmission line is ideally located.

The truth is we need so much more electricity from renewable sources to replace our current fossil fuel use and convert transportation and heating to electric power that the answer is ALL of the above, and as fast as possible. And yes, many of these will require new transmission lines.

Bill Nemitz’ recent column suggested that the pro-corridor advocates are using retroactivity as the scapegoat to avoid addressing the benefits of the corridor. But there are crucially important benefits we should all know about.

The New England Clean Energy Connect corridor could be completed very quickly, immediately eliminating more than 3 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions from the New England power grid every year, making a bigger dent than any other renewable project currently planned. It involves a relatively short new corridor which, thanks to the improved environmental permit requirements, will be the most environmentally sensitive utility transmission corridor in Maine.

I plan to vote no on Question 1 because a yes vote would not only kill the near-term prospect of bringing significant additional renewable energy to the New England grid, it would also hamstring our ability to attract future clean energy investments. It would set a precedent for political interference in what have long been impartial, fact-based permitting decisions, and slow down every new transmission line proposal by forcing them to go through the Legislature at a time when we need prompt action.

I am voting no not despite my lifelong career in conservation, but because of it. Because I think we should all be worried about the permanent and escalating impacts of a heating climate, not just on our health and economy, but on flooding of habitat for piping plovers and salt marsh sparrows, scorching of boreal forests and alpine zones, and a warming and acidifying Gulf of Maine driving out lobsters and whales.

These are a greater concern to me than the impacts of retaining 1,000 acres of early successional habitat in Maine’s already intensively managed forest mosaic. Maine and the planet can’t wait.


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