Opponents of Central Maine Power’s proposal to build a high-voltage transmission line through Maine urged lawmakers on March 8 to order state environmental regulators to consider the project’s impacts on greenhouse gas emissions.

Dozens testified on both sides of a bill that would direct the Department of Environmental Protection to study the “total net effect” on greenhouse gases of CMP’s controversial proposal to build the 145-mile transmission line through western Maine. The New England Clean Energy Connect proposal would allow Massachusetts to purchase power from Hydro-Quebec as part of a state law requiring the Bay State to switch to renewable sources.

But skeptics of those clean-energy claims suggest Hydro-Quebec could merely shift existing power generation to Massachusetts without reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Meanwhile, Maine residents would be forced to deal with the ecological and economic impacts of a 145-mile power line corridor cutting across the mountains, lakes and river valleys of western Maine, critics said.

“There is a lot at stake here: Global warming is a serious issue but so is maintaining our natural environment,” said Daryl Kelley, a registered Maine Guide from Portland whose great-grandfather was a trapper and former game warden in the corridor area. “We need some real answers to this whole project. If what CMP is telling us is true with the corridor, they shouldn’t be afraid of an independent study.”

But project backers said the proposed study is unnecessary, given evidence on greenhouse gas emissions already presented to state regulators. And they warned that any new regulatory requirements would only delay a project that would create thousands of construction jobs and benefit the tax base of communities along the corridor.

“In my view, based on painful decades of regulatory experience in Maine, you are looking at six months to a year of extending DEP proceedings in Maine … and the tragedy there, as my testimony points out, is the fear is not justified by the facts,” said Tony Buxton, an attorney representing the trade organization the Industrial Energy Consumers Group.

CMP’s transmission line proposal has emerged as Maine’s most controversial land-use fight in a decade.

Hydro-Quebec has not formally participated in the regulatory process and did not send a representative to address lawmakers Friday.

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