Mainebiz news story
The Maine Public Utilities Commission has scheduled a “settlement conference” for Tuesday on Central Maine Power Co.’s $950 million transmission line project through western Maine to deliver hydro-power from Canada to electricity customers in Massachusetts.
The three-member PUC filed a procedural order on Friday to schedule a settlement conference for 1:30 p.m. Tuesday at its 101 Second St. office in Hallowell. Friday’s action came after CMP and two intervenors, the Office of the Public Advocate and the Industrial Energy Consumers Group, requested that such a conference be scheduled “as soon as possible.”
The request for the settlement conference and PUC’s subsequent order were preceded by a flurry of briefs from intervenors and other parties on Friday reiterating support or opposition to the project, which has generated 570 filings since CMP opened the docket for its New England Clean Energy Connect project on Aug. 28, 2017.
The Natural Resources Council of Maine, which has been one of the leading critics of the NECEC, urged the PUC in a 21-page filing to reject the project.
“CMP has failed to articulate a legitimate public need that the NECEC meetings,” NRCM’s Dylan Voorhees stated in the Feb. 1 filing. “Instead, this proposed project is simply a discretionary project that CMP has attempted to justify through a series of inflated and illusory claims about purported public benefits masquerading as public needs. Not only does this project not address any public need, but CMP’s proposed transmission line would actually harm Maine ratepayers by causing significant negative impacts to Maine’s renewable energy industry, economy and environment.”
The Industrial Energy Consumer Group and Maine State Chamber of Commerce, on the other hand, urged the PUC to approve the project.
“The benefits of NECEC to Maine energy consumers and citizens are substantial and clearly exceed the risks and cost associated with the project,” Preti Flaherty lawyers Anthony Buxton and Andrew Landry wrote on behalf of IECG. “NECEC will increase New England’s fuel security. With the ongoing retirement of thousands of megawatts of base-load New England generation and the region’s failure to support the development of necessary natural pipeline capacity, ISO New England has warned of rolling brownouts and blackouts as soon as 2024. NECEC and the related Hydro-Quebec power purchase agreements with Massachusetts provide the region with 1,090 firm energy from a source that does not rely on natural gas.”
Gerald F. Petrucelli, attorney for the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, expressed the chamber’s strong support of CMP’s project, citing its “substantial benefits to our state, including additional Maine jobs, increased Maine gross domestic product and property tax revenue and lower energy prices.”
Petrucelli singled out testimony provided during PUC hearings about the NECEC’s impact on lowering Maine’s energy costs, citing one expert witness’s estimates that the 15-year savings for Maine’s retail electricity customers would be $119 million in 2023 dollars — which translates to $13 million in annual savings over that period.
The Say NO to NECEC grassroots group issued this statement, urging PUC to reject the project: “[T]here is no amount of short-term money worth the permanent destruction to the one of the last contiguous forests in the world. Maine’s brand, recreational tourism, native brook trout habitat, and way of life should not be discarded for an elective transmission upgrade that will not improve reliability for Maine’s ratepayers. NECEC does not represent new green energy. It will prevent the growth of Maine-based renewable energy in Maine. NECEC is not a true means of climate sustainability or a reduction in global C02 emissions. Parties that wish to settle for their own profit interests should dig deep in to their conscience before selling out Maine to benefit corporate profit interests.”