February 18, 2020
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Central Maine Power’s proposed transmission line is bad for Maine

Robert F. Bukaty | AP
Robert F. Bukaty | AP
In this Tuesday, May 28, 2019 photo a homemade sign is posted on a telephone pole in protest of Central Maine Power's controversial hydropower transmission corridor in Jackman, Maine. The power corridor would extend 53 miles from the Canadian border into Maine's north woods on land owned by CMP.

In a recent televised ad, CleanEnergyMatters.org touts the purported benefits of Central Maine Power Company’s proposed 145-mile long transmission line, which would deliver electricity from Hydro-Quebec to Lewiston where it would enter the New England energy grid. The ad’s intentional omissions, though, are troubling.

First, CMP isn’t mentioned in the ad, and for good reason: the utility’s plummeting reputation is a liability to the project. A few months ago, J.D. Power ranked CMP among the worst utilities in the country due to lack of transparency, billing snafus resulting in multiple lawsuits, poor customer service and slowness in repairing downed power lines.

Second, the ad doesn’t mention that a new 53-mile, 150 foot wide, transmission line will be built through western Maine’s remote mountains, irreparably damaging wildlife habitat, high quality native brook trout waters, western Maine’s outdoor recreation-based economies, and our burgeoning green energy industry. Instead, the ad states, “The new clean energy corridor will be built alongside existing transmission lines.” That’s simply untrue: a third of the line would be built where no towns, power lines or paved roads exist.

Third, the ad doesn’t mention that Massachusetts will be the major beneficiary of electricity delivered by CMP to the New England grid. Let’s be clear: there would be no project without Massachusetts’ increased need for electricity. The Bay State’s gain comes at Maine’s environmental expense.

Fourth, the ad doesn’t disclose that Avangrid — CMP’s parent company — funded CleanEnergyMatters.org’s televised commercial to the tune of $500,000. It bears mentioning that Avangrid, a Connecticut company, is owned by Iberdrola, a Spanish-based energy giant. Does it make sense to destroy a large swath of the western Maine mountains to generate millions of dollars annually for a Spanish utility conglomerate? According to the Bangor Daily News, in the project’s first year of operation, Hydro-Quebec would earn nearly $500 million and CMP would earn $120 million.

Maine residents will soon be courted by another wave of deceptive television ads funded by Hydro-Quebec, a multi-billion dollar public utility owned by the Province of Quebec. According to Maine Public, Hydro-Quebec is gearing up to fund its own PAC to counter a likely 2020 citizen’s initiative referendum ballot question on the CMP project. Although PACs are legal, Hydro-Quebec’s and multinational corporations’ funds aimed at influencing voters undermine our democracy.

I testified as an expert wildlife witness at the weeklong Department of Environmental Protection/Land Use Planning Commission hearings in Farmington in April. On Dec. 5, I testified again at a public hearing with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Lewiston. It was clear at both hearings that project opponents vastly outnumber project proponents.

Thousands of Mainers, myself included, have signed a petition to add the controversial transmission project to the November ballot. To date, 25 Maine towns along the corridor have voted to oppose or rescind their project support. Former state Sen. Tom Saviello of Wilton, an outspoken project opponent, best summarized the tidal wave of opposition to the project during his testimony at the Lewiston public hearing by stating that project benefits to Maine citizens would be equal to receiving “a whoopie pie once a month.”

CleanEnergyMatters.org’s ad is a marketing ploy to convince Mainers that CMP’s project would deliver green energy — a highly debatable claim because Hydro-Quebec is building no new generation capacity for the CMP corridor. It will simply shift electricity sales from existing customers in places like New York and New Brunswick and sell it at higher rates to Massachusetts. CMP’s claims about the project being “green energy” are especially dubious given its long history of opposing energy efficiency and Maine solar and wind projects.

The utility is merely hopping on the green energy bandwagon to garner citizen support.

Let’s not be deceived by this ruse. This proposed project is bad for Maine.

Ron Joseph is a retired wildlife biologist. He lives in central Maine.

 


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