Opponents of the Central Maine Power corridor have found a major supporter in their fight against the $1 billion project in controversial Fox News personality Tucker Carlson.
The conservative TV news host, who has been in hot water recently over his suggestion that having children wear face coverings to prevent the spread of the coronavirus is “child abuse” and encouraged viewers to confront people wearing them in public, featured No CMP Corridor leader Tom Saviello and others opposed to the project in an online original short segment to talk about the project.
The video is an escalation in the rhetorical war between CMP and corridor opponents, a long-standing fight that has been given renewed life with another ballot question aimed at the project heading for the 2021 ballot. The fight has largely played out in TV and social media ads over the project’s benefits and drawbacks.
The episode was released on the Fox Nation streaming service on Thursday. In a preview, Carlson likened CMP’s project to a “corrupt green energy scam” that could “destroy the last large standing forest east of the Mississippi.” While most of the 145-mile line will run along an existing utility corridor in western Maine, 54 new miles will have to be cleared.
It touches on many anti-CMP talking points, including assertions that the project only benefits the foreign-owned companies involved in the project. CMP’s parent is the Spanish company Iberdrola and its partner is the provincially owned Hydro-Quebec. It is in response to a bid from Massachusetts to help the state reach its clean-energy goals within the next few years.
Saviello said the interview came about “serendipitously.” He learned in November that Carlson had done a segment about Alaska’s Pebble Mine, a proposed copper and gold mine later scuttled by former President Donald Trump. He and others wondered if Carlson would be interested in exploring the corridor project, knowing Carlson is well-known in Maine.
Through mutual acquaintances, Saviello arranged a meeting with Carlson’s producers at a restaurant in Roxbury Maine last winter. In January, he and other corridor opponents met up with Carlson’s crew to shoot footage in the West Forks region.
Saviello said Carlson’s producers flew him to Los Angeles three weeks ago for a sit-down interview with the host that lasted about three minutes. He said he did not know what the end product was going to look like, but said the show was “more than I could have hoped for” and “told the story as I see it.”
“Tucker Carlson is a showman and as I’ve said from the beginning, all I care about is — whoever wants to help us, they are more than welcome to do that,” he said.
Jon Breed, the executive director of Clean Energy Matters, a CMP-funded political committee, said the project’s supporters and developers were never given a chance to participate in the segment despite outreach.
The show was caught filming construction crews with drones and used logging footage not connected to the corridor, Breed said. A Clean Energy Matters spokesperson said the wood yard used in the segment is the Marshall Yard, which CMP has rented part of to store timber mats. They said none of the logs shown are from the corridor.
A Fox News spokesperson denied the network secretly filmed project workers and said the episode made it clear that CMP had not started cutting the new 54-mile corridor.
“Carlson was either misled by project opponents or is a willing partner in helping opponents spread more misinformation about the Clean Energy Corridor,” Breed said.
The project and attempts to stop it have been the subject of court battles and nearly $33 million in campaign-related spending alone from 2019 through March. CMP and its backers dominated that spending to the tune of $26.4 million as part of a massive public-relations campaign. Opponents, largely funded by fossil fuel generators, spent the rest. Most of it happened in 2020, when the state’s high court struck an anti-corridor question from the Maine ballot.
Outside the political realm, opponents are running out of avenues. The project has received needed federal and state permits to begin construction, although some of those are currently the subject of court proceedings. The most promising result for opponents came last month, when a judge ruled the state must determine whether the project will alter state land it crosses.
It is not the first time that Carlson, who owns a home in Bryant Pond, has figured into state politics. Bethel restaurateur Rick Savage read Gov. Janet Mills’ cellphone number live on Carlson’s Fox News show after announcing plans to open despite a statewide order closing restaurants to in-person dining.
Carlson joins a host of strange political bedfellows on both sides of the corridor issue. Both Mills and former Gov. Paul LePage, who may be opponents in the 2022 governor’s race, support it, while environmental groups and fossil fuel companies oppose it with bipartisan coalitions in the Legislature on either side.
BDN writer Jessica Piper contributed to this report.