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AUGUSTA, Maine — Former Gov. Paul LePage confirmed on Monday that he was paid in 2019 by a lobbying firm to advocate for Central Maine Power’s hydropower corridor, which has been perhaps the hottest political issue facing his Democratic successor.
The Republican said in a Monday statement to the Bangor Daily News that he was paid $7,500 last year by Mitchell Tardy Jackson, a high-powered lobbying firm that has been working for the utility since last year to fend off legislative proposals aimed at killing the $1 billion project.
It’s a rare point of agreement between LePage and Gov. Janet Mills, who won the 2018 election on a promise to overturn much of the term-limited LePage’s conservative legacy. His paid involvement in the corridor fight may take on added political importance since he’s considering a 2022 run against Mills.
The project would bring Hydro-Quebec power to the regional grid through a 145-mile transmission line, but it is under threat from opponents who recently delivered more than 75,000 signatures to the state in a bid to put a question killing the project on the November ballot.
After the Maine project became Massachusetts’ top option to fulfill a massive clean-power request in 2018, LePage’s energy adviser vowed to would “push this right through” permitting. Mills supported the corridor last year after inking a $250 million benefits package over 40 years.
LePage is now a Florida resident, but he has made numerous talk-radio appearances to speak in favor of the corridor. Last week, LePage told WVOM he is “probably not the right guy to come back” if the corridor is defeated by voters. His paid work on behalf of the project has been rumored for months in Augusta, but firm details did not emerge until Monday.
In a statement, LePage’s adviser Brent Littlefield, said the former governor was paid last year by Mitchell Tardy Jackson to provide “factual data” on the project. Littlefield said LePage had not yet been paid for any work in 2020, but “if asked to contribute his time and expertise, he may be compensated at that time.”
“I will continue to speak out and attempt to bring out the facts,” LePage said in a statement. “I will continue to advocate for this project whether I receive any compensation because it’s the right thing to do.”
Cheap Canadian hydropower was a white whale of LePage’s eight-year tenure as governor. He repeatedly advocated for scrapping a 100-megawatt cap for hydropower as part of Maine’s renewable energy portfolio. The CMP project emerged only at the end of his tenure. It has become perhaps the most controversial issue in Maine politics.
More than 20 towns have either opposed the corridor or pulled support for it, while a poll funded by opponents in early 2019 found 65 percent disapproval among Mainers. CMP poured $2.3 million into its campaign to salvage the project by 2019’s end, while natural gas generators that could lose market share if the project is completed have spent to boost opponents.