Agencies call out lack of evidence on climate claims even as they coach CMP how to write its own Environmental Assessment
August 13, 2020 (Augusta, ME) – A new document obtained under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) shows that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (the Corps) and U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) have identified major problems with the Central Maine Power (CMP) transmission corridor, including the company’s claims about the proposal’s impact on the climate.
The April 9, 2020, response from CMP’s parent company, Avangrid, to questions raised by the Corps also reveals that CMP is writing its own Environmental Assessment, which is less rigorous than an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). It appears CMP is doing so with coaching from the very federal agencies responsible for evaluating the project.
“CMP’s excuses in this document clearly show the company’s pattern of obstruction and disinformation when it comes to providing objective information about the climate impact of its proposed transmission corridor,” said Nick Bennett, Staff Scientist at the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM), which obtained the document via FOIA. “We now see that key federal agencies share many of the concerns raised by the vast majority of Mainers who are opposed to the CMP corridor because it would forever harm the woods and wildlife of Western Maine without providing benefits for the climate.”
The document shows:
- The Corps and DOE warned CMP that it has failed to provide adequate evidence that the proposed transmission corridor (also known as NECEC) has climate benefits. Questions about the validity of CMP’s claims have plagued the project from day one because no independent evidence has been presented to show the project would reduce overall carbon emissions. On page 33, the Corps asked CMP:
“Since the regional benefits from reduced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are reportedly cornerstone of the project’s benefits and critical to the public interest review, the Corps and the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Electricity have collaborated on how best to address the conflicting positions in this matter.
We have reviewed the studies conducted on the NECEC Project, written testimonies, transcripts, and other material CMP filed as part of the state proceedings before the Maine Public Utilities Commission (Maine PUC). CMP consolidated this information and provided it to the Corps and DOE in a Supplemental Information Response dated November 26, 2019. Opposing findings, testimony, and material have also been reviewed.
DOE has identified gaps in the assumptions and analysis that limited their ability to fully vet the results of the studies and understand the drivers underpinning the stated reductions in GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions. It is therefore very important that CMP work directly with the DOE team and the Corps to furnish best available information to fill the identified gaps.”
- DOE asked for the same information that was proposed as part of a bill in the Legislature (LD 640) that would have required an independent study of CMP’s climate claims. Although the bill received a 30-4 vote in the Maine State Senate, CMP led an effort involving dozens of lobbyists. They killed the study by preventing a two-thirds majority in the Maine House that was needed for the study to commence immediately. That study would have been completed in August 2019.
On Pages 35-36, DOE asked CMP:
“If new capacity is not built for NECEC, an evaluation of the effect of NECEC on GHG emissions will require a comparison of a scenario with NECEC in-service to one that examines the outlook for Hydro-Quebec’s supply if NECEC is not built.
CMP also states that “NECEC will provide 1,090 MW of hydroelectric power, backed by HQ Production’s extensive reservoir system, in all hours of the year for 20 years starting 2022.” It is not clear if the studies analyzed the supply and demand dynamics for Hydro-Quebec for these two scenarios, i.e. with or without NECEC project, over the 20-year operating period. DOE and the Corps are therefore requesting that the applicant provide the following list of data items that would help fill the gaps.
Hydro-Quebec Operations – Reference Case without NECEC and Project Case with NECEC
a. For the Reference Case (without NECEC) and the Project Case (with NECEC), please provide the following:
- Assumptions and analysis used to calculate Hydro-Quebec’s energy demand, peak demand, and reserve margin requirements over the 20-year contract period.
- Assumptions and analysis used to calculate Hydro-Quebec’s capacity and energy imports and exports over the 20-year contract period.
- Assumptions and analysis used to calculate Hydro-Quebec’s generation capacity and dispatch used to meet Hydro-Quebec’s energy demand, peak demand, reserve margin requirements, and exports over the 20-year contract period.
- Assumptions regarding Hydro-Quebec’s new generation builds and upgrades over the contract period.
- Assumptions regarding Hydro-Quebec’s hydro storage additions and expansion over the contract period.
- Sensitivity cases analyzed to assess Hydro-Quebec’s ability to meet NECEC supply requirements over the 20-year contract period under different hydrological conditions.
- Assumptions about Hydro-Quebec’s precipitation levels over the 20-year contract period.
- ACOE is allowing CMP to draft its own Environmental Assessment (EA) under the National Environmental Policy Act outside of the public view. At the same time, the Corps is coaching CMP on how to make a better case for itself. On page 4, the Corps asked CMP:
“A core determination that the Corps must make is, will the authorization of discharges of fill into the WOTUS be in the public interest or at least not contrary to the public interest.
Prevailing public comments and hearing testimony received to date slants heavily toward project opponents. This is not uncommon though it seems particularly well organized for this project. Reportedly 26 or more towns along the corridor have voted in opposition to the project.
While our public interest evaluation isn’t a ‘popularity contest’, careful consideration must be given to our public interest review factors in view of the magnitude of public opposition. Toward that end we offer CMP the opportunity to update and enhance Section 7 and Table 9 of the draft Environmental Assessment. You may wish to greater emphasize the project benefits.”
For these reasons and others, Maine Congressman Jared Golden and the Penobscot Indian Nation in separate announcements called on the Corps to conduct a full EIS as was done for similar projects in New Hampshire and Vermont.
“The Army Corps must conduct a full Environmental Impact Statement for the CMP corridor because of the significant harm that would be done to the North Woods and the tourism industry in that region,” said NRCM Attorney Sue Ely. “Mainers should be shocked and alarmed to learn that CMP is being coached by the Army Corps on how to avoid a more thorough environmental review for this controversial proposal despite the serious concerns raised about the project by the Corps itself.”
To learn more about CMP’s destructive transmission corridor proposal visit: www.nrcm.org/programs/climate/proposed-cmp-transmission-line-bad-deal-maine/