WOOLWICH — The Woolwich Select Board voted Tuesday not to withdraw a letter supporting 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 Dale Chadbourne and Allison Hepler voted to rescind.

The vote came after residents at the board’s Aug. 19 meeting urged members to rescind a letter the board wrote in 2017 in support of the controversial project.

King said he voted to keep the letter in place because the project doesn’t negatively impact town residents.

“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 the fact that Woolwich considered rescinding support for the project 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 drafted Woolwich’s letter supporting the project, but now opposes it.

The proposal calls for installing 145 miles of transmission lines across western Maine. Ninety-two of those miles already have the infrastructure in place, meaning wires would be added to existing towers. Transmission lines would be strung up on existing towers for about a mile in Woolwich.

Selectman Dale Chadbourne said whether the town supports the project has little impact on 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 allowing CMP to install the lines, the PUC can override the denial if commissioners decide the project is needed for “public welfare and convenience.”

In April, the PUC granted CMP a certificate stating the benefits of the 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far in Maine, 17 of the 38 municipalities the transmission line would pass through have voted to oppose the project or rescinded their earlier support.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 would have CMP 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 Englands, and their energy is 99.9 percent 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 circulate a petition for a November referendum vote to oppose the project in Woolwich.

They had about 50 signatures two weeks ago. Petitioners need 130 signatures for a question to appear on the ballot.

 


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