This past month, Gov. LePage again proposed constructing a natural gas pipeline, this time to carry fuel from Quebec to Maine. The stated goal of the pipeline would be to lower Maine energy prices through the use of cheap natural gas. While the governor did not provide a cost estimate, experts place the figure in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Unfortunately, this proposal ignores the energy shift currently underway across the United States. The development of cheap, green energy and its proliferation is happening and developing pipelines that carry “dirty” fuels is simply short-sighted. The costs of wind and solar have fallen to the point that they are competitive with traditional energy sources. Therefore, the development of these renewables should be a priority because of the significantly lower health and environmental costs associated with them.

Natural gas is often touted as a bridge fuel by the fossil fuel industry. But while proponents are correct that climate-changing emissions that result from the combustion of natural gas are 50 to 60 percent less than those emitted from a new coal plant, this thought process blatantly ignores the litany of health issues that are seen in areas where natural gas fracking is occurring.

A study published by the journal Human and Ecological Risk Assessment found that, of a total of 632 chemicals, 353 chemicals were studied in-depth and 75 percent affected “skin, eyes, and other sensory organs, and the respiratory and gastrointestinal systems.” About 40 percent to 50 percent had the ability to “affect the brain/nervous system, immune and cardiovascular systems, and the kidneys.” And, finally, “25 percent could cause cancer and mutations.” The study concluded that the full health impacts of natural gas fracking may not be known for some time and the chemicals that are used in this process should be disclosed under the U.S. Safe Drinking Water Act.

Also, the natural gas pipelines that already crisscross Maine have had their fair share of problems. During the winter of 2014, a natural gas pipeline that runs from eastern Canada to Boston via the Maine coast blew a valve, “sending gas 100 feet into the air,” the Penobscot Bay Pilot reported. The incident was caused by ice buildup from extreme cold. This was not a singular incident: During the winter of 2016, there was a major leak in Augusta that resulted in the gas company being fined hundreds of thousands of dollars. In Massachusetts, Audrey Schulman of HEET, a Cambridge-based organization, has worked to map local gas leaks and, startlingly, has found tens of thousands of leaks across that state.

The health concerns, coupled with the environmental destruction, make natural gas a poor energy source. Alternatively, the state of Maine could look forward to green energy sources like solar and wind. Solar energy has proven itself to be practical for rooftop use in the state, and with an improvement in solar policy, small-scale solar installations have the potential to increase drastically. Jobs will certainly follow when solar investment becomes less ambivalent.

Wind also has enormous potential in the state of Maine. The University of Maine estimated that the Gulf of Maine has the potential for 156 gigawatts of energy potential – 65 times the amount of energy Mainers use.

An investment in offshore wind or utility solar would be a more practical investment than a multimillion-dollar investment in a natural gas pipeline. Wind and solar are cost-effective and could deliver energy to millions of homes across New England. If Maine acts now to invest in alternative energy sources, we could become a leader in the region and deliver energy to the rest of the Northeast.

This proposal – to invest in clean renewables that would allow Maine to be a net generator of energy – is a forward-thinking innovation that will bring jobs and economic development to our state. Instead of importing outdated fuels, we should be exporting clean energy that was developed by hardworking Mainers. Maine does not need a pipeline – we need homegrown, renewable energy.

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