Woolwich selectmen voted Tuesday not to rescind a letter in support of CMP’s proposed transmission line that would cut through western Maine to bring Canadian hydropower to Massachusetts. The letter was written in 2017 by Selectman Allison Hepler, who now opposes the proposed project. (Kathleen O’Brien / The Times Record)

WOOLWICH — The Woolwich Select Board voted Tuesday not to withdraw a letter in support of Central Maine Power’s proposed 145-mile transmission line that would send hydropower from Canada to Massachusetts. 

Selectmen Allen Greene, Jason Shaw and Chairman David King Sr. voted not to rescind the town’s support, while two other members, Dale Chadbourne and Allison Hepler, voted to rescind. 

The vote was the result of urging from the public at the board’s Aug. 19 meeting to rescind a letter the board wrote in 2017 in support of the proposed transmission line.

King said he voted to keep the letter in place because the project doesn’t negatively impact the people of Woolwich.

“I don’t see the project damaging the town of Woolwich,” said King. “In the northeast, most of our energy comes from fossil fuels and coal, so if the project can offset a few million kilowatts of that, I think it’s a good thing.” 

Hepler said she hopes Woolwich’s consideration to rescind its letter of support sends a message to the Public Utilities Commission, which regulates utility projects and companies in Maine. 

“We need to make our point to the PUC that they also represent the public,” said Hepler, who originally drafted Woolwich’s letter supporting the project, but now opposes it. 

The proposed project would lead to the installation of 145 miles of transmission line across western Maine. Ninety-two of those miles already have the infrastructure in place, meaning wires would be added to existing towers. The transmission lines would be strung up on existing towers through about 1 mile of Woolwich.  

Selectman Dale Chadbourne said whether the town supports the project has little impact on the trajectory of CMP’s plans. 

“CMP can do anything they want. (The transmission line) is going to happen and we can’t stop it,” said Chadbourne.

Even if a town along the proposed transmission line rescinds its support or denies a permit to allow CMP to install the lines, the PUC has the power to override a denied permit at the local level if commissioners decide the project is needed for “public welfare and convenience,” the Portland Press Herald reported Sunday. 

In April, the PUC granted CMP a certificate stating the benefits of CMP’s proposed $1 billion transmission line outweigh harder-to-gauge impacts on scenery and outdoor recreation in the western Maine mountains. 

So far in Maine, 17 of the 38 municipalities the transmission line would pass through have voted to oppose the project or rescinded their earlier support.

In February Gov. Janet Mills backed a deal that states CMP would give $258 million to Mainers over 40 years to help lower electric bills in exchange for a permit to build the transmission line. 

“Hydro-Quebec can supply enough energy to power two New England, and their energy is 99.9% renewable. Wouldn’t it be a good idea for us to be connected to the largest hydropower company in the world?” asked Tony Buxton, a lawyer who heads the energy practice at Portland law firm Preti Flaherty and represents an industrial electricity users group that supports the $1 billion project. 

Despite the vote to continue supporting the project, Woolwich residents Dani Friend and Sherri Harvey are helping to circulate a petition for a November referendum vote to oppose the project in Woolwich. 

Friend, who previously worked for CMP, and was among those calling Woolwich selectmen to revoke their support in August.

“The project will not benefit Maine, it will do detrimental harm to our landscape and ecosystem,” said Friend. “There’s a 53-mile stretch of this state that will be cut into in that is untouched, beautiful and pristine.”

Friend and Harvey had about 50 signatures two weeks ago. The petition needs 130 signatures for a question to appear on the ballot. 

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