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Updated: January 9, 2020

CMP transmission line plan clears zoning hurdle, but others remain

Photo / New England Clean Energy Connect The planned route for CMP's 145-mile transmission line, parts of which will use existing routes in Franklin County.

The planned $1 billion Central Maine Power Co. transmission line through western Maine meets zoning and land use requirements, the state' Land Use Planning Commission said Wednesday.

The LUPC, which is the planning and zoning authority for the unorganized territories, certified to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection that the project is an allowed use within the districts it's proposed to cross, including special recreation districts for the Appalachian Trail and the Kennebec River. 

However, the DEP is still considering whether the plan is allowed under the Site Location of Development Law. The New England Clean Energy Connect project will stretch 145 miles from the Quebec border in Beattie Township to a new converter in Lewiston, where it would connect with the existing electric grid. Once completed, it would deliver 1,200 megawatts of energy generated by Hydro-Quebec to Massachusetts.

The commission began taking comments and gathering other information about the proposal in October 2017.

Supporters tout benefits

The project is part of a Massachusetts initiative to reduce carbon emissions there under the state’s Global Warming Solutions Act. The Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities is reviewing 20-year contracts among the state’s largest electric utilities, Central Maine Power, and Hydro-Québec for the delivery of 9.45 terawatt hours of electricity annually from Canadian hydropower facilities.

CMP's parent company, Avangrid Inc. (NYSE: AGR), has said that the project will produce nearly $1 billion in economic benefits in Maine through construction employment, electricity cost savings, local property taxes and enhanced economic growth through 2027. Avangrid also claims that the 20-year Massachusetts contracts will produce additional economic and environmental benefits in Maine through 2043, and separate agreements between CMP and Hydro-Québec could extend benefits to Maine for 20 years or more after that.

Gov. Janet Mills, in February, endorsed the project, including an agreement that includes a $50 million low-income customer benefits fund, a $140 million rate relief fund, a $10 million broadband fund, a $15 million heat pump fund and $10 million from Hydro-Quebec for electric vehicles.

“Importantly, the discussions in recent weeks have brought to the table the largest generator of renewable energy in North America — HydroQuebec," she said at the time. "Partnering with this provincial company to our north, with its plentiful low carbon generation, along with local renewable generators, will not only bring down the price of power for consumers of all sizes but will also help us wean off of fossil fuels in a significant way."

She said the project will "put our state and our region on the road to a zero carbon economy by 2050."

Environmental concerns

The project, though, has been criticized by many who say it will have negative natural and environmental impacts on Franklin and Somerset counties, through which it will pass.

“The Land Use Planning Commission’s decision today ignores the enormous harm that the proposed transmission line would have on the recreational experience, scenic character and natural resources in Maine’s Western Mountains," said Sue Ely, a clean energy attorney at the Natural Resources Council of Maine.

Ely said evidence and testimony during LUPC hearings on the project "made clear that this project would be a bad deal for Maine and cause irreparable damage to the largest contiguous temperate forest in North America."

"Throughout its materials and public comments, CMP has consistently disrespected and downplayed the value of the Western Mountains for Maine people and the regional economy," Ely said in a news release following Wednesday's decision. "In rushing to try and push this profit-driven scheme through the regulatory process, CMP has also failed to properly consider alternatives that would reduce the harm done to Maine’s environment or mitigate for the damage that would be done.”

In Frankin and Androscoggin counties, 25 towns have voted to oppose or rescind support for the project, as have two of the state’s largest unions and the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine.

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January 22, 2020

We feel your pain from central NH after having fought off that dastardly Northern Pass project foisted on us by NEVER$OURCE & HYDRO QUEBEC. NEVER underestimate the power of the people - share only the facts, become knowledgeable about all things electric and hydro, show up at all meetings everywhere, and persevere. We kept up our resistance to this for 8+ years and WON, as you know! Develop cohesive messages and find a color you can use on messaging, t- shirts, bumper stickers, etc. And find a messenger well versed in social media who can get out messages to keep everyone informed.
Good luck and stay strong and RESIST!

January 10, 2020

Meanwhile thousands of signatures are being collected to stop this destruction of forests that Maine people do not want to see happen. There is nothing green or clean or even efficient about transporting power long distances, especially when you factor in the damage that Hydro-Quebec has done to produce the power. How old fashioned is Maine that we think CMP running wires is the answer to rural broadband while Starlink launches satellites for global broadband?! How about some forward thinking solutions...

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