November 15, 2018
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County wants CMP to share $26M in benefits from controversial hydro project

Gerry Broome | AP
Gerry Broome | AP
This Aug. 14, 2018, AP file photo shows power transmission lines. A controversial Central Maine Power Co. project aims to carry hydropower from the Canadian border to the Lewiston area to supply electricity to Massachusetts.

A group of Franklin County representatives has requested a package of economic development, other benefits and cash worth about $26 million from Central Maine Power to share in some of the income and benefits the utility would gain from a proposed hydropower project.

The group said it was scheduled to meet with Thorn Dickinson, vice president of business development for CMP’s parent company Avangrid, today to discuss the proposed memorandum of understanding, which includes $15 million in benefits and $10 million in cash over a 20-year period.

However, that meeting has been postponed, according to Farmington Selectman Scott Landry, who leads the group.

“[Dickinson] said CMP hadn’t made a decision yet about what they were going to do for us,” Landry said. Another meeting date has not yet been set.

CMP spokesman John Carroll acknowledged that the company has received Franklin County’s request, but told the Bangor Daily News “we are not prepared to meet or respond to their request at this time.”

The other members of the group are Franklin County District 1 Commissioner Terry Brann, Chesterville Selectwoman Tiffany Estabrook, New Sharon Selectwoman Lorna Nichols, Wilton Selectman Tom Saviello and Charlie Woodworth of the Greater Franklin Development Council.

The $950 million CMP proposal would transmit hydropower 145 miles from the Canadian border through western Maine and to the New England electric grid. It is moving steadily through regulatory reviews and contract negotiations, despite opposition from groups questioning its environmental and economic benefits to Maine.

If approved by Maine regulators this fall, the New England Clean Energy Connect, or NECEC, project would both build new transmission lines, from Beattie Township in Franklin County on the Canadian border to Lewiston, and upgrade existing infrastructure.

CMP already has offered $50 million to help low-income electric customers in Massachusetts as part of the deal. It also has offered a deal worth up to $22 million to mitigate the scenic impact of the transmission line to a group of stakeholders in the Kennebec Valley Gorge.

Carroll also said the towns along the route, with the exception of New Sharon, have provided letters of support for the project that CMP submitted to Massachusetts in support of its proposal. He said they were not agreements for the project, but simply endorsements of it.

The NECEC will pass through four unorganized towns in Northern Franklin County and six towns in the lower part of the county.

The Franklin County MOU proposal requests internet accessibility/availability worth about $15 million, educational opportunities/scholarships/technical training and internship funding valued at $1.5 million, economic development valued at $2.4 million and $2 million for economic opportunities in the Route 4/27 corridors. It also requests funding for local energy efficiency programs and food security efforts, an additional property tax relief valued at $1 million and $4 million dollars to help local towns leverage funding for their individual projects.

Included in the request is $50,000 to establish an internship program at the University of Maine in Farmington, a $50,000 Franklin County tax abatement and $100,000 in redevelopment support for Saddleback Mountain, the Route 4 corridor and New Vineyard.

The funds would be distributed over a 20-year period. That’s the same amount of time the contracts for building the NECEC project will last.

Landry said his group is surprised and very disappointed the meeting was canceled. The next steps would be to present the detailed plan to the selectmen of Wilton, Industry, New Sharon, Farmington and Chesterville as well as to the Franklin County Commissioners for their guidance on what to do next. That should happen over the next two weeks, he said.

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