When picturing Maine, the Pine Tree State, it’s hard not to imagine the rocky coast, the rural farmland and the vast forests. In fact, Maine has the largest amount of overall forest coverage in the country. Our state is home to the end of the Appalachian Trail, which hosts over 2 million hikers every year. Yet our state is currently facing the decision to either protect this forest covered land we call our home or sell it to an energy company who will replace pine trees with power lines.
Central Maine Power (CMP) has proposed building a transmission line called the New England Clean Energy Connect (NECEC) that would span 145 miles from the Quebec-Maine border to an energy grid in Lewiston. Of those 145 miles, 53 would require clearing a new transmission corridor through Maine’s relatively undisturbed woods. According to the Natural Resource Council of Maine (NRCM), the corridor would cross 263 wetlands, 115 streams, 12 inland waterfowl and wading bird habitat areas and the Appalachian Trail.
CMP has released arguments stating that the corridor would benefit Maine by introducing a form of clean energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Yet various environmental groups, such as the NRCM, have disputed these assertions and argue that a new transmission corridor would actually be the opposite of helpful.
Arguments that the corridor would benefit Maine’s economy are weak and easily refuted. According to NRCM, Mainers would only see a reduction of six cents on their monthly electric bills and the low-income households CMP claims to be helping would only receive around $2.37 of benefits per year.
A study released by Energyzt Advisors — that according to their website, are a “global network of energy experts,” — states that the new transmission line would not actually lower carbon emissions, because it would “divert energy sales from another market into New England,” it would not reduce total greenhouse gas emissions and “could even increase total carbon injections into the atmosphere.”
The same study also found that NECEC would “suppress the development of new renewable energy in Maine,” because the power lines installed would be unusable by any other form of clean energy. NRCM’s Clean Energy Staff Attorney Sue Ely spoke on NRCM’s podcast and described how the new power lines would have no extra room for energy from solar or wind farms to link in and be transported with the hydro-power coming from Quebec. Ely states that CMP is “maxing out the [clean energy] infrastructure” and making it “prohibitively expensive for new projects” to create new clean energy infrastructure after CMP’s corridor is put into place. Even though NECEC is supposed to lower greenhouse gas emissions, in reality, it would prevent Maine from developing any other clean energy solutions and would actually hurt Maine’s chances of ever lowering their carbon emissions to the critical amount we need in order to combat climate change.
Even Patagonia, the outdoor clothing company that doubles as an environmental advocacy organization, spoke out about their opposition to the CMP corridor. In a Facebook post made on June 1, 2018, Patagonia urged their followers to “take action” and “add [their] voice” to a petition against NECEC, arguing that “if constructed, [the corridor] could threaten Maine and Massachusetts forests, wildlife, and strides towards renewable energy standards.” Other organizations have formed petitions as well, and over 10,000 Mainers have signed on to show their opposition to CMP’s proposed plan, according to NRCM.
Most of the opposition to NECEC comes from environmental groups. The corridor already has approval from around 95 percent of the towns that the corridor would go through and the stamp of approval from Gov. Janet Mills, but that should not discourage Mainers to reject the proposal.
The next step of the proposal requires an endorsement from the Maine Public Utilities Commission (MPUC). In order to start construction and move forward with the corridor, CMP would need a certificate of public convenience and necessity, which is given by the MPUC.
Because of this, MPUC has set up a week’s worth of public hearings at the University of Maine at Farmington from April 1-5 to hear concerns from Mainers as well as environmental and energy groups. Mainers and environmental groups should take advantage of this opportunity to voice their opinion and concerns to the commission.
Overall, CMP has failed to respond to the accusations against them that the corridor would not actually limit carbon emissions and would instead hurt Maine’s chances of ever establishing newer and more effective renewable energies. Their corridor would invade Maine’s pristine and undisturbed forests, endanger wildlife and hurt Maine’s green future.
NRCM says it best on their website when they say: “Maine deserves better than to have its unique undeveloped North Woods degraded by a massive new corridor when there are less damaging alternatives. As we develop our 21st-century energy infrastructure we should look to 21st century solutions, not the destructive approaches of the past.”