The debate continues over CMP’s proposed transmission line through western Maine to bring Quebec hydropower to Massachusetts.

Opponents of the project usually represent themselves as environmentalists, but I can’t see how an environmentalist with his or her eyes open would oppose this project. New England is a single power market; when a power plant closes down anywhere in New England, it affects us all. This June, the Pilgrim nuclear plant in southern Massachusetts will be going off-line permanently. All the power it has been producing will almost certainly be replaced by natural gas-generated electricity. That will increase the region’s carbon footprint substantially, worsening global warming.

CMP’s project will introduce large supplies of clean, renewable power into the New England market – power that contributes far less to global warming than do feasible alternatives at that scale. Moreover, this power is currently being wasted in Quebec, because Hydro Quebec has built more hydroelectric infrastructure than they can currently use. For example, in 2018, they “spilled” over their dams enough water to power 1.4 million New England homes for a year.

Some argue that this will ruin the landscape it runs through. But the route avoids many of the most sensitive and beautiful areas of western Maine, including Moosehead Lake, Bigelow Preserve, Kennebago, and the Rangeley Lakes region. Plus, 72 percent of the length of the new line would use transmission corridors that already have electric lines running along them.

We have to find big ways to bend the curve of global carbon emissions to head off an environmental catastrophe for today’s young people and their progeny. We have to take bold steps. No project is perfect, but the New England Clean Energy Connect project is a big stride in the right direction.

Nathan Szanton

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