CARATUNK — Unlike the power lines that provide reliable electricity for Maine consumers, the Central Maine Power corridor is a commercial, for-profit project, and just like any other business or developer, CMP should have to abide by the rules of the municipalities in the region that are affected. These local ordinances were enacted democratically. No utility should have the right to supplant local control simply because it seeks greater profits for its shareholders. That’s why the Legislature must pass L.D. 1383 to protect towns and property owners.

Like most in western Maine, my neighbors and I first heard about CMP’s proposed transmission line and thought it was a typical reliability utility line, providing service to Maine ratepayers. But as we learned more about the project, we realized it was an optional, for-profit transmission proposal. As the Office of the Public Advocate stated in a Feb. 1 brief, CMP’s project “is solely a business proposition: CMP is involved to make money for its shareholders.” The CMP corridor should not be confused with projects traditionally undertaken by a Maine utility.

If this project is allowed to go forward, it would be the first time in Maine that eminent domain and exemptions from local ordinances would be possible for an optional, for-profit transmission project. That is a dangerous precedent. What other business or homeowner has the power to seek an exemption from local permitting requirements? No wind and solar projects – including those CMP had to compete against to win the bid for its corridor – are eligible for any kind of exemption. CMP shouldn’t get any special treatment at our expense.

L.D. 1383 is a straightforward and essential proposal. It clarifies that local governments have a say on optional, for-profit transmission projects and cannot simply be ignored by the Public Utilities Commission at CMP’s request. The bill also gives local government a say in whether eminent domain can be used. And it does not affect any utility upgrades needed to ensure reliability.

If CMP had reached out to local governments to minimize adverse impacts and determine critical components to the area’s economy, character and safety in efforts to design a mutually beneficial project, we might be in a different place today. But instead, it has shown complete disregard for the communities that would be affected by this project – which is why 15 towns have now either rescinded their support or outright opposed the transmission line proposal.

The PUC has acknowledged CMP’s disrespect for Maine towns and their residents, saying March 29 that “in addition to CMP’s unexplained failure to include key stakeholders … the commission is concerned about CMP’s overall outreach and communications activities regarding the project. Such a response reveals an unsettling disregard for certain members of the host communities.”

Citizens should not be penalized because CMP failed to properly consider alternatives, including designs and routes that minimize impacts. No one cares more and knows more about the safety and welfare of our citizens, lands and landowners than our local governments. Thankfully, our municipal democratic processes ensure that land use is governed locally by the people and for the people.

Mainers also need L.D. 640, which calls for an independent study of how the CMP proposal would affect regional greenhouse-gas emissions. There should be no pressure for Maine to accept this project until significant climate benefits are confirmed. Until Hydro-Quebec can actually prove that it has the capacity and the incremental hydropower without simply shuffling existing power from one set of customers to another, there is no assurance of any climate benefit – in which case we should accept no adverse impacts incurred on our state.

It is also important to recognize Maine is not the only route to Massachusetts. Vermont is waiting and has permitted a fully underground line from Quebec that comes with substantial benefits for Vermont. The salvation of New England’s climate does not depend upon this unwanted corridor through Maine.

Local control is a key factor to public safety, local economy, and overall public welfare. Regardless of your position on the CMP corridor, it is common sense that the Legislature should clarify the law to make sure that for-profit developers are required to abide by the same standards we expect from any other company that wants to do business in our communities.