A few weeks ago, we received a plain-looking parcel that looked like junk mail. But we opened it anyway. Inside was a letter informing us that LS Power Grid Maine, a private investment firm based in New York, was planning to run a massive 345-kilovolt transmission line a few hundred feet behind our newly built home, obliterating the field and woods in which we work, walk and educate our two home-schooled kids.

Chuck Noyes, far right, owner of Noyes Family Farm, sits on a tractor tire and listens to farmers speak in opposition to Aroostook Renewable Gateway during a July 19 protest in Albion. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Senti

The proposed power lines would form part of the Aroostook Renewable Gateway, a 1,200-megawatt corridor that begins at King Pine Wind (scheduled to be built by Longroad Energy in Aroostook), then carves its way through 140 to 160 miles of privately owned farms and woods before terminating at Coopers Mills and tying into the ISO New England energy grid.

LS Power Grid, which has yet to show the Maine Public Utilities Commission an actual route, has touted the project as a major investment that will “support … Maine’s renewable energy and emissions reductions goals.” Despite not knowing what the route will be, Gov. Mills has said “yes” to the project, and the Maine Legislature has given it bipartisan approval.

But like many large-scale projects that states have undertaken – notably for our state, Central Maine Power’s transmission corridor, which will supposedly usher in all sorts of environmental and economic benefits – things that look good on paper aren’t always good for people or the planet.

Take, for example, LS Power Grid’s proposed path through Unity, about 70% of which (18.9 out of 26.1 square miles) the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has designated as an area of special ecological importance. As currently planned, the route runs through two homes that the firm did not know were there, as well as numerous planned building projects that would benefit families and the local economy; 0.6 miles of protected aquifer district; 1.4 miles of conserved land at the Unity Agricultural Center, where at-risk youth learn biodynamic farming skills; the hills of Overland Farm, where great, shaggy Highland cattle spend their lives before feeding locals in the form of beef; almost half a mile of endangered and threatened species habitat within the Sandy Stream watershed, and 2.3 miles of deer wintering area.

It also bisects Amish fields north of Route 139. What are the ethical implications of running a 345-kV system through a community that doesn’t use electricity?

Indeed, what are the environmental implications of carving 150-foot easements through ecologically sensitive places? Of maintaining corridors, as utility companies often do, by spraying herbicides that leach into the ground, poisoning the soil and threatening farmers’ livelihoods? Of core-drilling 10 feet to 20 feet through ledge, creating pathways for PFAS to enter aquifers and contaminate more wells? Of fragmenting pristine woods and farmland?

Even if the route shifts from its current path, as it may do based on current obstacles, Mainers will have to wrestle with these bigger questions – even those who won’t be looking down blank corridors of metal and wire where their trees used to be.

In the face of climate change, our need for renewable energy is more pressing now than ever. But let’s make that transition in ways that make ecosystems and local communities whole. LS Power Grid’s current plan does neither of those things – and local and state officials would do well to hear that message before it’s too late.

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