Protect Maine interests before helping Canada

By John Hanson, Special to the BDN
Posted Dec. 17, 2009, at 5:34 p.m.

The Commission on Energy Corridors has concluded, setting the stage for legislative debate next year about how Maine can protect its interests and lower energy costs. This debate will determine Maine’s energy future.

Some members stood for Maine’s long-term interests. Others wanted to sell Maine for a discount to Canadian interests. Energy costs matter more than ever and recent Canadian developments pose new risks to Maine.

What developments? Canada’s refusal to allow liquefied natural gas tankers through Passamaquoddy Bay is intended to stop a Maine LNG site. Maine LNG would lower energy costs by 10 to 20 percent or up to $100 million a year for Maine consumers.

Canada stands in the way; while at the same time accepting LNG shipments for its Irving LNG terminal in Saint John, New Brunswick. So much for Canada’s alleged concern over LNG safety issues.

Hydro-Quebec, North America’s largest electric utility, is now seeking to buy New Brunswick Power for $10 billion. Why? According to HQ’s president, it wants a route through Maine to Boston to export power. It’s all about the money.

Maine consumers suffer from energy costs that are among the highest in the nation. Energy costs have shuttered mills, driven out employers and hurt every consumer.

We must have LNG, just as the Canadians do. We must have reasonable power costs, just as the Canadians do.

There were at least as many Canadians as Americans at the last commission meeting. They were there to protect Canadian interests. Some, but sadly not all, of the commission members stepped up to protect Maine and fight for lower energy prices. We shouldn’t sell our future short, as some seem determined to do.

We represent men and women who will build Maine’s renewable energy industry. We are excited about the opportunities we see. However, renewable development could be harmed by a rush to give Maine’s interests to companies “from away.”

We agree with those commission members who want to assure no harm to Maine’s renewable energy and fair compensation for using Maine to get to Boston. It’s simple — protect Maine first before doing any favors for Canada. We will be watching to see who Maine’s real leaders are.

John Hanson is the executive director of the Maine State Building and Construction Trades Council. He lives in Bangor.

http://bangordailynews.com/2009/12/17/opinion/protect-maine-interests-before-helping-canada/ printed on September 23, 2014