The Conservation Law Foundation, a respected environmental group based in Boston, is firmly in favor of Central Maine’s Power Co.’s plan to build a 145-mile transmission line through western Maine to bring Canadian hydropower to Massachusetts.

According to the CLF website, tapping Hydro-Quebec’s electricity “makes us reliant on big, carbon-emitting Canadian hydropower, undermining the market for New England’s own home-grown zero-carbon renewable energy.”

Wait, what?

Oh, the foundation wasn’t discussing the New England Clean Energy Connect project in Maine. It was opposing a similar proposal called the Northern Pass that was supposed to run through New Hampshire. The CLF said Northern Pass would have done all kinds of bad things, such as increasing power costs, “spoil(ing) some of New Hampshire’s most scenic and sensitive areas” and “putting local, clean renewables at risk.”

NECEC is totally different – in ways that aren’t readily apparent.

From the foundation’s website: “By bringing more clean energy to the region, the project will reduce our reliance on dangerous, expensive fracked gas and significantly cut climate-damaging emissions.”

That’s the same energy CLF just called “carbon-emitting.”

Foundation Vice President Greg Cunningham tried to explain this seeming inconsistency in a February press release: “The disastrous effects of climate change are at our front door and we must take aggressive action to reduce our emissions to zero by 2050.”

Apparently, climate change isn’t happening in New Hampshire.

We can only speculate as to why CLF made this abrupt shift in its position. So, let’s do a little speculating.

Sean Mahoney is executive vice president of CLF’s Maine Advocacy Center. R. Scott Mahoney is senior vice president for Avangrid, CMP’s parent company. The Mahoneys are brothers.

Nothing to see here folks, emailed Carol Gregory, spokeswoman for CLF. Just move along. Brotherly love “has had no bearing on our advocacy in this case or any other over the past decades. (Scott Mahoney) was not involved in any of the NECEC proceedings before the (Public Utilities Commission) or the (Department of Environmental Protection) or any of the NECEC negotiations that CLF participated in.”

Seems perfectly reasonable that the foundation’s main man in Maine would be able to set aside his brother’s occupation. Although just in case he couldn’t, a May 2018 letter to the PUC, Phelps Turner, a CLF staff attorney, said the foundation had established a “conflict/ethical wall” to prevent Sean Mahoney from accessing “any Designated Confidential Information.” But Turner also noted that Sean Mahoney “is otherwise actively participating in the case.”

None of which explains CLF’s abrupt position change from fighting the New Hampshire project to supporting the all-too-similar Maine venture. According to Gregory, NECEC “answered our concern that the electricity it will transmit would lead to increases in emissions from dirty Canadian power plants – the power NECEC delivers will be surplus power from existing dams.”

If that’s so, why did CLF attorney Melissa Birchard tell the Boston Globe in early April that the foundation is still opposed to Northern Pass? How can Hydro-Quebec electricity sent to the Granite State be dirty, while juice from the same source delivered to the Pine Tree State is clean?

For the record, Neither Sean nor Scott Mahoney returned calls seeking comment on their involvement in NECEC.

The Conservation Law Foundation isn’t the only nonprofit organization with questionable ties to the Central Maine Power project. More on that next week.

While I was writing this column, the power went out. Coincidence? Speculation may be emailed to [email protected].

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