Last September, when I first wrote about New England Clean Energy Connect, Central Maine Power’s proposal to transmit Hydro Quebec power through Maine to the Massachusetts market, I really figured NECEC would be DOA.

After all, New Hampshire had just turned the project down and there seemed to be nothing in it for Maine, just power lines cutting through our backyard to get to Boston.

Now it looks as though NECEC will be a slam dunk. CMP has a few more regulatory hurdles to clear, but the company has mounted a PR campaign touting clean energy, lower electric rates, more jobs and saving our children’s future, and the governor’s energy office and the public advocate have signed off on a settlement that trades a Maine Public Utilities Commission permit for $250 million in incentives.

The package of incentives CMP has offered includes $140 million in rate relief, $50 million in low-income assistance, $15 million for heat pumps, $15 million for electric vehicles and $10 million to install rural broadband service. The rate relief and low-income assistance, spread out over 40 years, are a pittance compared to what CMP and Hydro Quebec stand to gain.

There is no proof that Canadian power will reduce greenhouse gases. A swarm of CMP lobbyists, in fact, descended on Augusta to defeat LD 640, a bill that would have authorized a study of the greenhouse gas impact of NECEC. Then last week Gov. Janet Mills vetoed a pair of bills that would have given local communities the ability to block the project.

NECEC reminds me of the failed Dickey-Lincoln dam project that occupied Maine from 1965-1985. The federal government wanted to dam up the St. John River to create an 86,000-acre impoundment to generate hydro power. Flooding the landscape is what Hydro Quebec is all about. Not green.


New Hampshire wanted no part of what was called Northern Pass, but Vermont has a fully permitted transmission line called New England Clean Power Line, all of which would be underground. New Hampshire even got Northern Pass to agree to bury 60 miles of lines.

The 145-mile NECEC transmission corridor uses existing power lines except for a 53-mile section through wilderness from the border to the Forks.

“If CMP agreed to bury the line along Route 201, there wouldn’t be any problem,” says Natural Resources Council of Maine advocate Pete Didisheim of the new construction. “But they wanted to be less than Vermont. CMP wants Maine to be a cheap date.”

Since New Hampshire was offered a similar $200 million package called Forward NH Fund and turned it down, I contacted Jack Savage of the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests Society to ask why.

“The people simply valued their landscape and their homes more than any short-term incentives,” Savage replied. “(Project sponsor) Eversource never seemed to understand that people really have a strong connection to the land, and that there was no price they were willing to accept.”

Polls have shown 72% of Mainers think NECEC is a bad deal and 17 towns along the proposed route have expressed opposition or rescinded initial approval. But former Gov. John Baldacci is vice chairman of CMP parent company Avangrid, former Gov. Paul LePage is a staunch NECEC supporter and Mills supports it as well. It’s an establishment thing.

I can’t believe Maine people value their natural environment less than residents of New Hampshire. I therefore have to conclude that our political leaders are selling us out – cheap.

Freelance journalist Edgar Allen Beem lives in Brunswick. The Universal Notebook is his personal, weekly look at the world around him.

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