The other day I came home to a flyer hanging on my front door that supported the CMP and Hydro-Quebec Corridor. The flyer called the transmission line the “CLEAN Energy Corridor”. This is an out and out fraud. The energy from Hydro-Quebec’s massive dams is far from CLEAN. The science is very clear. The power generated is some of the dirtiest generated power on the planet.
This greenwashing is a complete distortion and fabrication of the truth. Hydro-Quebec and CMP, both foreign owned corporations, have already spent over 20 million dollars on a false and scurrilous disinformation campaign. Their campaign war chest has no bottom and as with most issues or political campaigns money can often trump truth. For these foreign owned companies, it is not about saving the planet from climate change. This is about money – billions and billions in profit, CMP 3 billion and Hydro-Quebec 12 billion, – plain and simple. This is why they are willing to spend millions on large scale “bribes” and slick PR campaigns.
The production of this power from 550 dams and dikes has resulted in the flooding of 3.8 million acres of once carbon sequestering boreal forest – this means an area about the size of Connecticut is no longer pulling carbon out of the atmosphere on an ongoing basis. We hear a lot about the destruction of the Amazon, but hear little about Hydro- Quebec’s annihilation of northern Canada’s boreal forest. In addition to reduced sequestration, the reservoirs are producing massive amounts of greenhouse gases from detritus/slash decomposition. One report out of MIT has estimated some of the reservoirs are emitting more carbon than a coal fired power plant. Much of the carbon released from decomposition is the greenhouse gas methane – 80 times more impacting than CO2.
The flooding has engulfed whole river systems. Virtually, in several instances, the direction of river flow has been reversed in order to fill up the reservoirs. The downstream impact to river systems and estuaries is equally damaging. Vast quantities of water are held back during spring runoff and then released as needed during the summer and fall. This has disrupted seasonal water flow cycles. The riverine biology has been completely thrown off – seasonal insect hatches have disappeared and caused fish population declines- and the impact continues up the food chain.
Perhaps, the least talked about impacts are from seasonal flow changes in the estuaries in the spring. The spring flush of water carrying immense amounts of nutrients and minerals is effectively eliminated. Estuarine phytoplankton, the base of the marine food chain, under normal flow conditions would experience a massive population bloom as a result of the nutrient laden spring freshet. These phytoplankton are an important carbon sink. Through the process of photosynthesis, they sequester vast amounts of CO2. Normally these exponential spring population explosions enrich the estuaries which are critical nursery habitat for many marine species. The arrival of the spring freshet results in the mixing of fresh and salt water which in turn results in temperature and salinity differences. These differences help promulgate water currents that can transport the cornucopia of phytoplankton virtually hundreds and hundreds of miles. There is now evidence that suggest the fisheries decline in both the Gulf of Maine and the Grand Banks may be tied to the mega-dam development around the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
I often call this “Dirty Energy Corridor”, Canada’s Tar Sands Project East. The corridor, if it were to be built, would like the Keystone XL Pipeline, transport dirty power. One lesson, we need to learn, is that just because something is renewable – like hydro – does not make it automatically clean. It bewilders me that Massachusetts considers the power it might receive from the corridor as emission free. They are going to include it in their power portfolio as carbon neutral. This is totally delusional. Not only is the power a carbon emissions disaster, once an electron enters the grid, it source is completely obscured. So what’s to stop Hydro-Quebec from reshuffling its power source mix to meet demand?
The Mill’s administration support for the transmission corridor is troubling to say the least. Generally, I would give the governor high marks for taking a strong stand for moving Maine toward carbon neutrality. The Maine Climate Council has established some ambitious goals. However, getting a handle on climate change in Maine requires recognizing that there are no borders. It is completely hypocritical to say we need to take steps to mitigate the impacts of climate change, but then allow the “dirty” power from Hydro-Quebec to transit the state. The state of Maine needs to stake out the moral high ground. Indeed, our future depends on it. I would love to see the Mill’s administration change course, but I am not holding my breath. There are just too many “bribes” being offered up by CMP and Hydro-Quebec as well as too many well healed political cronyisms in play.
Our best hope is to pass the citizen initiative. Bravo to the folk who in spite of the cold and covid were able in record time collect the requisite number of valid signatures This initiated bill requires the approval of the Legislature for the construction of high-impact electric transmission lines and provides that high-impact electric transmission lines crossing or utilizing public lands must be approved by 2/3 of all the members elected to each House of the Legislature. This initiated bill also prohibits the construction of high-impact electric transmission lines in the Upper Kennebec Region. If you want to say no to the corridor, you will need to vote Yes on this bill. I hope you will join the citizen effort to protect Maine and the planet from those who value profit over planet. Learn more at www.nocmpcorridor.com
We are confronted with the catastrophe of climate change. It is no joke. If we don’t make every humanly possible effort to reduce emissions, our grandchildren are going to be living in a world of utter chaos and horror. This is not time to engage in a shell game of deceit.
Jonathan Carter, Dir. FEN, Former Green Candidate for governor