AUGUSTA — Midcoast legislators have come out strongly against a proposal by Central Maine Power to build a transmission line in western Maine that would send electricity from Canada to Massachusetts.
And the local legislators said they support a bill that would require an independent review of the project to determine the accuracy of claims by the privately owned utility that the project would result in the net reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
"It's a boondoggle of major proportions, trust me on this, it's a Hall of Famer," said Rep. Jeffrey Evangelos, independent of Friendship.
He said he could not imagine Massachusetts' Legislature supporting a project if a Maine delegation went to Massachusetts and told them that "we've discovered a power source for Maine and we're bringing it right through your pristine Berkshire Mountains and forest. And by the way, you're gonna save up to 20 cents a month on your power bill."
He said he will support every single bill that comes forward to "obstruct and block this ridiculous idea."
State Sen. David Miramant, D-Camden, also voiced opposition to the CMP corridor plan. "The wilderness of Maine is a more valuable draw than anything that has been stated as a benefit of this proposal. We need to protect our uniqueness as a state from the greed of multinational corporations that use our utility laws to fatten their profits, " Miramant said.
The Knox County state senator said he has a bill before the Legislature, LD 271, that would remove the right of eminent domain from CMP, unless there is a proven benefit to the people of Maine.
"Forty cents per customer does not justify the taking of land from property owners who do not want to sell," Miramant said.
He said he had traveled north of Quebec City and witnessed the destruction that those remotely located sources of electricity cause. He said there are power lines and corridors everywhere and the vegetation under these corridors is kept from growing by spraying herbicides, most often glyphosates, a known carcinogen.
The CMP proposal would create a new 53-mile power corridor from Maine's border with Quebec to the Forks Plantation, and would upgrade an additional 92 miles from the Forks to Lewiston.
Rep. Vicki Doudera, D-Camden, said three weeks ago she drove through western Maine, along part of the project’s path, and "I remain more convinced than ever that the CMP corridor is a bad deal for our state."
"It's still unclear whether the reductions in carbon emissions can be verified, and the line itself is a threat to clean water, wildlife and the region's local economy," Doudera said. "Any money and incentives will disappear very quickly, but the 53-mile scar on the landscape will remain for generations to come. We have the opportunity here in Maine to be generators of renewable power, and that's what we need to focus on, not being Quebec's conduit to send energy south to Massachusetts."
Rep. Ann Matlack, D-St. George, said building the proposed transmission line from Quebec to Massachusetts was not in the best interests of the state of Maine.
"Providing hydroelectric power to our southern neighbors without any direct benefit to Maine -- even with the proposed modest incentives like funds for heat pumps, electric vehicle charging stations and high-speed internet service and fiberoptic cable -- in no way compensates Maine for the long-term damage to the North Woods," Matlack said.
Rep. William Pluecker, independent of Warren, said the corridor provides only minimal benefits for the state of Maine, at a tremendous cost.
"There are arguments coming out that it would reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, but we have not seen conclusive proof that the project would actually increase generation of electricity by hydro-power. We know the environmental destruction caused by building dams and the methane released by the decomposing matter under the water, and we know the destruction of the woods in western Maine if this corridor was built. I strongly support SP 202, sponsored by Sen. [Brownie] Carson [D-Harpswell], that a thorough analysis of the net greenhouse emissions of the project is done before any agreement is made," Pluecker said.
State Sen. Dana Dow, R-Waldoboro, did not respond to a request for comment on the CMP issue.