Editor's note: About a year ago, the Sportsman's Alliance of Maine polled its members on the CMP Powerline Project and they strongly opposed the project. In the July/August sure of the SAM News we presented an article supporting the CMP project. In this edition, we are presenting an article in opposition to this controversial project. We strive to inform our members about all sides of this issue.
Outside influences abusing Maine's referendum system is nothing new to Maine's sportsmen and women. In 2004, and again in 2014, the Humane Society of the Uniter States (HSUS) funded unsuccessful anti-bear hunting referendums intended to villainize hunters and change the way we manage our growing black bear population. Then in 2016, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg targeted Maine with a poorly written "universal" background check initiative loaded with landmines that would have made criminals out of law-abiding gun owners. In all three situations, Mainers banded together to defend our traditions and our heritage, sending outside special interests packing.
Flash forward to today, and outside influences again are funding a very expensive PR campaign to sway Maine voters, this time against a true grassroots movement to give the voters of Maine a voice in the controversial CMP corridor project. The funders are two foreign-owned companies that stand to make billions of dollars from the for-profit transmission corridor that would deliver power from Quebec to Massachusetts.
One of the companies, Hydro-Quebec, stands to make $41 million per month off this project, and is solely owned by the government of Quebec. They are using a loophole in campaign finance laws to funnel millions into a campaign against the referendum, after refusing to testify under oath or appear for questioning before any regulatory body in Maine.
Under any circumstances, it is illegal for a foreign government to interfere in elections in our country, but in Maine, the law doesn't (yet) apply to the referendum process. This has allowed Hydro-Quebec to influence Maine voters without ever being held accountable for their deceptive claims.
The other company bankrolling the opposition is CMP, owned by Iberdrola, a Spanish company. CMP stands too make $120 million in profits off this project the first year alone, and a total of $2.9 billion over the next 20 years.
Together, these companies are spending record amounts to defeat the referendum. They've also repeatedly sued the State of Maine for recognizing the people's right to vote on their deeply unpopular project.
Foreign influence aside, there's plenty for Maine's sportsmen and women to dislike about CMP's corridor project, which is why the project has drawn formal opposition from the Maine Professional Guides Association, Sportsman's Alliance of Maine, Trout Unlimited, and a number of other prominent environmental groups.
Just four years ago, Trout Unlimited and the Trust for Public Lands teamed up to purchase the Cold Stream Forest, which is now a public reserve owned by the State of Maine. The Sportsman's Alliance of Maine played a critical role in advocating for the Cold Stream project, which protected 8,000 acres that include some of the best remaining native wild brook trout spawning habitat in the nation, and deer wintering yards critical to supporting the area deer herd.
CMP's corridor would threaten the efforts to protect critical habitat by crossing Tomhegan Stream, the most important tributary for Cold Stream, and cutting through one of the only large, intact deer yards in all of Somerset County, at the confluence of Cold Stream and the Kennebec River. This habitat, critical to the Cold Stream Forest property, will be destroyed so CMP can run their for-profit corridor to fulfill an energy contract with Massachusetts.
And this is just a drop in the bucket when you consider the irreversible damage of CMP's project as a whole. The corridor would impact 263 wetlands, cross more than 200 rivers and streams, impact 12 inland waterfowl and wading bird habitats, and remove 11 miles of riparian zone. It would have a tremendous scenic impact in some of Maine's most remote corners, crossing the Appalachian Trail three times.
Mainers stand to benefit very little from this project. Barry hobbies, the public advocate, described the savings for Maine ratepayers as, "obviously, not significant," and the benefits package equates to roughly $0.37/month per ratepayer. In other words, Mainers will make pennies (assuming CMP doesn't increase their rates again) while foreign corporations make billions.
While CMP and Hydro-Quebec have put their rosy spin on this cash cow project for years now, the fact is that they're trying to convince Mainers to be okay with foreign corporations scarring rural Maine's beautiful landscape, degrading our irreplaceable natural resources, and steamrolling over the local voice so they can make a handsome profit.
But Mainers know a bad deal when they see one.
- Tom Saviello