The question is: Why should Maine accept a line like the one New Hampshire just rejected?
by Ernie Hilton and Adam Lee
Central Maine newspapers op-ed
Central Maine Power is engaged in a major public relations effort to convince Maine people that its 145-mile transmission line project, which would cut a new 53-mile swath through Maine’s scenic North Woods to bring Canadian hydro power to Massachusetts through our state, is good for Maine people and Maine’s environment.
New Hampshire regulators recently turned down a similar proposal to construct a major transmission line across New Hampshire to bring Canadian hydro power to Massachusetts because of the harm it would do. So the question is: why should Maine accept a line like the one New Hampshire just rejected?
Maine’s governor, Paul LePage, is lining up with CMP. Rather than allowing Maine regulators to go through the same thoughtful process that led New Hampshire to reject that project, Gov. Paul LePage, through a spokesperson, has vowed to ram the project through Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection. This is very unfortunate on a number of levels.
If we want to send renewable power across Maine to Boston, a far better alternative for Maine — one that LePage has repeatedly blocked over the years — would be to build farms of offshore wind turbines. These turbines could be placed far off shore where no one would see them. The turbines could use advanced engineering technologies developed right here in Maine.
These turbines would create more construction jobs over a longer period of time than a transmission line, and would also lead to many permanent maintenance positions. Sending this clean, renewable energy from Maine to Boston would require a far shorter transmission line than CMP has proposed, and would develop a whole industry including many small, local businesses. This would benefit the Maine economy and sustain a much larger tax base for decades to come.
Keep in mind that CMP is no longer the local company started by William Wyman that so greatly benefited our forefathers. CMP is owned by Avangrid, a multinational company working in dozens of countries all over the world. CMP’s most lucrative business activity is building transmission wires and poles, which it does as a state-sanctioned monopoly.
In Maine, CMP doesn’t get paid for generating electricity but for delivering it. And believe it or not, they are guaranteed a 12 percent return on their investment by the Public Utilities Commission. So the obvious question is: Why does CMP want to build 150 miles of transmission lines through Maine to deliver Canadian power to Massachusetts? To make more money? We assume so. What does Maine get out of that? Not much.
CMP claims that Maine ratepayers won’t have to pay. But there is still the chance that Maine ratepayers may have to help pay for it. The citizens of Maine certainly will have to pay by enduring environmental damage.
The 53-mile new portion of this 150-foot-wide corridor through Maine’s North Woods would cross 263 wetlands and 115 streams, disrupting deer wintering areas, waterfowl habitat and miles of wildlife habitat and harming hunting and fishing experiences.
It would cross the Appalachian Trail three times and would run across and over the Kennebec Gorge, one of Maine’s premier natural attractions, visited by thousands of people every summer as they raft and fish the upper Kennebec River. Keep in mind the Maine brand that lends so much value to our state.
This brand is relied on by our tourism industry, including the many rafting and guiding companies that take visitors down through the gorge, who refer to the “remote wilderness setting,” “spectacular scenery” and “most beautiful (gorge) in the East.”
Gov. LePage’s support for CMP’s project is baffling. He supports hydropower generation in Canada although it would not provide any permanent jobs in Maine. Yet he vehemently opposes solar power in Maine, and minimizes the value of offshore wind, both of which would provide hundreds of good jobs throughout the state. In essence, the governor is giving jobs that could be filled by Mainers from rural parts of the state to Canada.
Maine people should demand that the impacts of CMP’s project get a full review, that alternatives to this unnecessary corridor through Maine’s North Woods be fully considered, and that Maine not get steamrolled by CMP and its multinational corporate parent.
Mainers should not be expected to blindly accept a major project that will provide little to no benefit to the state and will harm our forests, wildlife and rivers, and our brand, a brand that has been carefully fostered for decades.
Ernie Hilton is a selectman in the town of Starks and a former member and chairman of the Maine Board of Environmental Protection, and Adam Lee is owner of Lee Auto Malls.