NRCM news release
Emera, the parent company of Bangor Hydro, has decided not to move forward at this time with a proposed 170-foot wide, 84-mile transmission line that would have bisected Hancock and Washington Counties, running between Orrington, north of Bangor, and Baileyville, on the New Brunswick border. This massive new transmission line was strongly opposed by the Natural Resources Council of Maine and citizens from throughout the state and region.
In a letter to the Board of Environmental Protection, Emera admitted that the current limit on the existing Maine Power Company transmission line (which runs further north, along a secondary highway for over half its length) might be increased, making it unnecessary to construct a new line.
“We are very pleased that Emera has abandoned its attempt to build a new line across Washington and Hancock counties at this time,” said Catherine Johnson, North Woods Project Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine. “This is great news for the lakes, forests and rivers of Downeast Maine and the people who love them. From the start we believed that it makes no sense at all to cut a brand new corridor through a beautiful undeveloped area of lakes and rivers, particularly when there is an existing, perfectly good alternative. I sincerely hope that this is the final nail in the coffin of this ill-conceived idea.”
Interior Down East Maine includes some of the most beautiful lakes and rivers in Maine. For over a decade the Council has said that there are less environmentally damaging ways to meet our energy needs than by constructing a completely new powerline through this wild, undeveloped region.
“One alternative the Natural Resources Council of Maine would like Emera to consider is more commitment to conservation and energy efficiency. In January, 2002, the Maine State Planning Office concluded that per capita residential energy use could be cut 25% over the next ten years though cost-effective investments in efficiency programs,” said Johnson. “If we can satisfy some of our energy needs through conservation and greater energy efficiency, and keep the Machias River and Lakes, the Narraguagus and the St. Croix Rivers wild and undeveloped, it’s like having our cake and eating it too.”
Bangor Hydro originally proposed the transmission line in the late 1980s. In the early 1990s, Bangor Hydro received both the state and federal permits it needed to construct the 84-mile line. However, Bangor Hydro never began construction of the proposed line.
Because construction had not begun, the state permits had to be renewed every few years. During the 1990s, Bangor Hydro received several automatic extensions of the state permits. In the late 1990s, the Natural Resources Council of Maine intervened in the process, arguing that the application should not be automatically renewed, but should be reevaluated as if it were a new application, because of changes in land protection laws, better information about the natural resources values of the Down East region and the recent listing of the Atlantic salmon as an endangered species.
In early 2002, after extensive deliberations by the BEP, the Department of Environmental Protection staff issued a draft decision denying the application for the new line. Facing certain defeat, Bangor Hydro withdrew its application and was given until the end of 2002 to file an amended application for a different route.
Because Bangor Hydro failed to file an amended application by the end of 2002, all existing state and federal permits for this project have expired. If at some later time Emera decides that it wants to go forward with a new transmission line, they will start with a blank slate.
“My hope is that, if Emera decides that it needs additional transmission line capacity between Canada and the U.S., the company will focus on increasing the capacity of the existing MEPCO line, rather than on building any new lines. That is the least environmentally destructive way of providing additional transmission capacity, ” said Johnson. “In the meantime, those who care about the natural beauty and undeveloped character of the interior Down East region, can breathe a bit more easily.”