Lewiston officials hope that the controversial New England Clean Energy Connect project will pour $7 million or more of new tax revenue into the city’s coffers, the Sun Journal reports.
With municipal revenue likely to fall due to the coronavirus pandemic, the extra property tax money from a new substation “would be a life saver for the city of Lewiston,” Mayor Mark Cayer told members of a poverty awareness committee Wednesday.
Lewiston Tax Assessor Bill Healey figured that Central Maine Power’s $350 million worth of improvements in the city would bring in more than $7 million in the first year. The Maine Center for Business and Economic Research estimated it might reach $8.4 million annually. That would be at least 10 percent more revenue from the substation and related improvements — particularly helpful with city officials estimating that Lewiston may see a $1.6 million decrease in revenue in the next fiscal year because of the pandemic. Even so, they anticipate a small tax-rate decrease for the first time since 2008.
Former Gov. Paul LePage has touted the $1 billion project’s impact on Maine, insisting that critics ought to favor the immediate help the project would provide for unemployed workers in western Maine, the Sun Journal reports.
The Spanish-owned utility would bring Quebec hydropower along a new 145-mile transmission line that mostly follows an existing corridor until it reaches Lewiston, the project’s hub. A new converter station on Merrill Road would transform the direct current sent from dams in Quebec into the alternating current required for most of New England’s electrical needs.
The converter station would be tied through a new 1.6-mile transmission line to the existing Larrabee Road substation, which would be upgraded to handle more of the stepped-down voltage flowing from the Merrill Road site.
The power itself would be paid for by Massachusetts ratepayers and flow into the New England grid, which includes much of Maine. Experts say it would hold down the cost of electricity in the Pine Tree State, the Sun Journal reports.
Opponents of the project say it would carve up Maine’s vast forest, create unsightly towers and bolster Hydropower Quebec’s destruction of crucial environmental resources north of the St. Lawrence River.
The company that wants to build it argues the project would help stem climate change by saving 3 million metric tons of carbon annually, the equivalent of taking 700,000 vehicles off the road each year for decades to come. It aims to have the project done by December 2022.