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Hope Pollard is the president of the Maine Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors.
The Associated Builders and Contracts (ABC) Maine chapter is one of 69 ABC chapters across the United States. We are proud to represent the voices of dozens of merit shop contractors across the state, including several who are proudly working to construct the New England Clean Energy Connect. These firms believe the project is good for business, and will bring clean energy from Quebec into Maine and New England. We are proud of the work our member firms are doing for this project and continue to endorse the project for the following reasons.
The project could create thousands of well-paying, local jobs that Maine families are counting on. During the lengthy review of this project by state agencies, economic experts at the University of Southern Maine presented a comprehensive analysis of the job creation impacts of this project. That report, prepared for Central Maine Power, shows the project can be a boon for Maine workers. These experts found that the project would directly create about 1,691 new jobs per year for the development, construction, and operation of the transmission line that pay, on average, over $40,000 per year. Many of these jobs are in the western part of the state, where struggling Maine families are desperate for well-paying jobs.
Since the project would save consumers money on their electric bills, and that money saved may be spent in Maine, it would create another 262 jobs per year for the next 20 years, primarily in retail, health care, food, and accommodations, the analysis found.
Another major benefit would be savings on electric bills and local taxes. The Maine Public Utilities Commission found that the project could cut electricity costs in Maine by about $63 million per year, and on top of that, the project would pay $140 million over 40 years into a rate relief fund for Maine consumers. This totals $66.5 million per year in savings on electric bills, and if this were divided evenly amongst Maine households, it would save each family about $116 per year.
Low-income customers would also benefit from a $50 million low-income customer benefits fund. And Hydro-Quebec has committed to sell electricity at a discounted rate to Maine residents. This is enough discounted electricity to power 70,000 homes or 10,000 businesses. On top of that, cities and towns along the route could see tax revenues increase by $18 million per year, which could mean either reductions for homeowners on their property taxes or new spending by cities and towns that may create new jobs for municipal employees, like teachers and police. For example, the project may generate over $8 million in new revenue for the City of Lewiston.
The economic boosts don’t stop there. In addition to well-paying jobs, lower energy bills, and property taxes, this project could also directly benefit the Maine economy and Maine families in many other ways. We have learned the hard way from the COVID-19 crisis that communities without broadband are at a severe disadvantage, especially students who attend school virtually. Central Maine Power has committed to using the transmission line to bring broadband to underserved communities and to pay into a $10 million broadband fund to bring fast internet service to rural communities in Maine.
We also know that for Maine to meet the ambitious goals to cut its carbon footprint, we will need to transition from oil burners to efficient electric heat pumps, and from gas-guzzling cars to electric ones. CMP has committed to pay $30 million to help make heat pumps and electric cars affordable for Maine residents, helping to jump-start Maine’s transition to clean energy.
We believe the November referendum jeopardizes our future. If the ballot question passes, this will likely kill the project and take away all the jobs, customer savings, tax reductions, and other benefits that go along with it. But, what’s more, it puts politicians in charge of how you pay for and what electricity sources are available to Mainers. This could hamper the development of new electricity sources, including in-state wind and solar and keeps out low-cost energy solutions.
If project opponents get their way, it also paints a bleak portrait of Maine’s future — this is a project that secured all its federal, state, and local approvals, based on the laws in effect at the time. If those laws can be changed and applied retroactively, who will want to invest in Maine?
For all these reasons, we support this critical project and encourage Maine voters to defeat this last-ditch effort to kill the project.