A coalition of state businesspeople and consumers has launched an advertising campaign to put pressure on Canadian firms to keep Maine’s economic interests in mind when it comes to future energy initiatives.
Maine Jobs First LLC rolled out a series of full-page newspaper ads across Maine over the weekend that called on lawmakers to take a step back in its potential partnership with Canada on an energy transmission corridor.
Dennis Bailey, a Portland-based marketing specialist representing the group, said the biggest goal of Maine Jobs First is to ensure that Maine’s economy is not lost in the discussion. More specifically, though, the group wants the Canadian government to stop fighting a proposed liquefied natural gas terminal in Washington County in exchange for a partnership on the energy corridor.
“Right now, we’re trying to bring people on board,” Bailey said Monday. “If a transmission line gets constructed, we want to make sure Maine isn’t just a pass-through.”
Gov. John Baldacci and others have pushed for the state to lease the rights of way along interstates to companies looking to build electricity transmission lines or other energy infrastructure. So far, the state has had discussions with Bangor Hydro-Electric Co. and Canada-based Irving Oil, but nothing has been made final.
Senate Minority Leader Kevin Raye, R-Perry, who said Monday he supports the mission of Maine Jobs First LLC, said the state should be careful not to move too quickly on the energy corridor proposal.
“We need a much better handle on how it affects Maine’s power production and whether it will disadvantage our own development,” Raye said.
Addressing the LNG proposal in his district, of which Raye has been a staunch supporter, the senator said the Canadian government and Canadian press have been extremely critical of LNG in Maine. Bailey said Irving has been behind the opposition as well.
Raye wondered why Maine should allow a Canadian company like Irving the rights to a corridor that will greatly benefit its country if that company is not willing to allow Maine to do the same with LNG.
“They’ve been willing to play hardball; we should, too,” he said.
David Farmer, Baldacci’s spokesman, said the governor has always supported LNG in Washington County, but he maintained that the energy corridor is a separate matter.
“As much as we support LNG, we know we need better transmission, too,” Farmer said. “We can have both. In fact, we need to explore as many energy projects as we can.”
Bailey said the biggest concern with an energy corridor is that its potential facilitator, Irving, would have an exclusive lease, giving it control over who can use the line and at what price.
“The geographic advantage that Maine has will be erased,” he said.
Finally, Bailey said Maine Jobs First LLC is worried that if a corridor were built, Mainers might fill the initial construction jobs, but the permanent jobs would be in New Brunswick.
Farmer stressed that nothing is final. Asked whether Maine was moving too fast on an energy corridor, the governor’s spokesman said the state has a unique opportunity right now when it comes to energy.
“It would be dangerous thing to hold up projects [like the energy corridor] at the expense of others [like LNG],” he said.