MA Attorney General testimony shows project would not reduce carbon pollution; Firefighters join growing chorus of opposition in Western Maine
NRCM News Release
Augusta – A settlement package being offered by Central Maine Power (CMP) for its highly contentious corridor project offers Maine people much less than meets the eye and is not worth the damage and destruction that would be done to the North Woods, cautions the state’s leading conservation group, the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM).
The purported settlement would not address the fundamental flaw in the transmission project: it would harm Maine substantially—from the state’s forests, waters, and wildlife to local clean energy projects and jobs—without benefitting the climate.
Filings by the Massachusetts Attorney General to the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities reinforce the concern that the corridor will not result in new (“incremental”) delivery of power. The filings detail how, without new electricity generation, Hydro-Quebec can play a shell game of shuffling power from existing customers to send it to Massachusetts customers who will to pay more. And without new generation, there will subsequently be no new climate benefits. The expert testimony from the Attorney General’s office in December specifically illustrates why the project would not result in lower total climate pollution. (detailed below).
CMP’s transmission project faces growing opposition from Maine people, including, now, the Maine State Federation of Firefighters who last week wrote to the state to express major concerns that the project would inhibit the ability to safely respond to fires.
“Mainers don’t support CMP’s corridor project because it is a bad deal for Maine and our environment,” said NRCM Clean Energy Project Director Dylan Voorhees. “This massive corridor would cause large-scale damage to Maine’s North Woods, would not reduce carbon pollution, and could block local clean energy projects that would provide real jobs and benefits for Mainers. CMP’s settlement offer doesn’t change these fundamental problems. It strikes us as being a desperate and calculated move to win support.”
Settlement package less than meets the eye
A review of the settlement agreement as described in the media shows that CMP is trying to fool Maine people into thinking the amount is more than it actually is by spreading proposed payments out until 2060.
NRCM found that:
- When spread across as many as 40 years, as proposed by CMP, the $258 million they are reportedly offering would be worth only $108 million in today’s dollars. That amount is significantly less than the $128 million payment that was offered as part of the failed New Hampshire Northern Pass project.
- When spread across 40 years, households in Maine would see monthly electric bills reduced by only six cents, and low-income households would receive an average benefit worth only $2.37 per year.
- CMP’s proposed heat pump fund would temporarily increase funding by a mere 10% for eight years over the level already being invested by Efficiency Maine.
- CMP has done virtually nothing to address concerns about impacts on the environment in Somerset and Franklin Counties, including fragmentation of forests, damage to brook trout streams, and disruption of the scenic and recreational resources that the regional economy relies on.
CMP and Hydro-Quebec (HQ) have failed to demonstrate any reduction in carbon pollution
After spending a decade opposing policies in Maine to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, CMP has launched a massive public relations campaign aimed at trying to convince Mainers that the corridor project would reduce greenhouse gas emissions, despite the fact that CMP and HQ acknowledge there is no new generation of renewable energy associated with the project, and thus no new climate benefits.
HQ and the developer of a similar transmission project in New Hampshire were unable to convince state agencies there of any climate benefit. And now the Massachusetts Attorney General is emphasizing that the CMP corridor would not actually reduce harmful carbon pollution, and could in fact make matters worse for climate change.
“Diverting clean energy from other regions to New England would enable a reduction in fossil generation and emissions within New England, but the reduced deliveries to other regions may need to be replaced by additional fossil generation in those regions,” wrote Dean Murphy, a witness for the Massachusetts Attorney General, in a filing to the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities. “This would effectively substitute fossil generation in other regions for fossil generation in New England, shifting emissions from one region to another, without causing a material decrease.”
NRCM and various experts have also pointed out that the corridor would damage Maine’s ability to build in-state clean energy projects, costing the state much-needed jobs and harming local economies. Since the power line is designed only to deliver electricity to Massachusetts customers it would limit the ability of local renewable energy projects from tying into the electric grid and regional markets.
“If we allowed this project to go forward, Maine would be foreclosing on a massive opportunity to invest in home-grown clean energy technology and other innovative solutions,” said NRCM Clean Energy Staff Attorney Sue Ely. “Responding to climate change at the scale that is needed requires flexibility in our energy infrastructure, not further restriction.”
Opposition growing Western Maine
More than 10,000 people have already signed petitions opposing CMP’s corridor line (including 5,000 on a petition from NRCM), and seven towns or plantations have rescinded their support or come out in opposition to the project. Many organizations in the region have expressed concern or opposition to the proposed transmission line, including the Maine State Federation of Firefighters who wrote to the state because the project has failed to adequately consider the ability of local volunteer firefighters to respond safely to fires.
“Several of our volunteer members, who serve areas within the proposed NECEC Corridor, contacted us to express their concerns for fire and safety response,” the Federation wrote in a February 12 letter. “…To date, no evaluation, assessment, or documentation of the fire, emergency medical, terrorism and other risks, or the services and equipment needed to mitigate those risks, have been formally identified, discussed, studied, and/or reported on.”
The Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine also recently rescinded their support for the project, saying, “An overwhelming percentage of our members are opposed to the NECEC corridor…”