One thing is clear when it comes to Central Maine Power’s proposed electrical transmission line linking Quebec and Massachusetts via western and southern Maine: It’s a dilemma of epic, and perhaps existential, proportions for Maine environmentalists.

For decades we’ve watched as environmentally minded groups and individuals have opposed all sorts of development projects, citing impacts on nature and viewscapes.

John Balentine, a former managing editor for the Lakes Region Weekly, lives in Windham.

They’ve successfully written laws to ban billboards, protect wetlands, remove dams to improve fish habitat, ban chemical herbicides, create “forever farms” and protect swaths of “tree growth” land to prevent urban sprawl. They’ve even denied Big Oil by outlawing pipeline transport of Canadian tar sands oil.

Give them credit; Maine environmentalists have tried, successfully many times, to protect open space, air and water.

Now, these same folks face a dilemma: Will they continue to oppose a clean form of energy – hydropower – by fighting CMP’s proposed 145-mile transmission line, known as New England Clean Energy Connect?

More specifically, will Maine’s pro-environment crowd oppose one of the world’s cleanest, most economical and reliable forms of energy – power we all need to live and move and have our digital being – merely because they don’t like unsightly power lines as they hike, bike and paddle in remote areas?


So far, that answer is yes. Many environmental groups, led by the Natural Resources Council of  Maine, remain defiant of CMP’s proposal. They have objected to the project every step of the way, including last week’s ruling by the state Land Use Regulatory Commission that the line is an accepted use in the areas targeted by CMP.

While I reluctantly support the project because I support clean hydropower, I don’t fault Maine environmentalists for their stance. Really, who wants another huge power line? However, I do fault them for their hypocrisy when considering the broader context, one which they’ve largely authored.

They preach that we need to dramatically alter our fossil-fuel dependent lifestyle because the planet is dying, but they’re not willing to embrace the CMP proposal because of its impact on views and water bodies. Really?

By continuing to oppose the project, environmentalists have shown themselves to lack seriousness and self-awareness regarding their own claims regarding climate change. Ironically, they oppose a project that will actually reduce fossil fuel use. By doing so, they throw the baby out with the bathwater and let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

When environmentalists don’t bend and welcome clean power, the average Mainer is left confused as to their real motives. Yes, we all agree it’s sad to lose a beautiful swath of never-ending nature. But if, as environmentalists argue, we need to take all appropriate action to reduce global temperatures, then shouldn’t we at least be willing to lose a tiny portion of a woodsy view to save our species?

Average Mainers observing the transmission line fight are also left wondering whether local climate-change preachers are truly worried about climate change. If their fears and warnings were legitimate and heartfelt, they would eagerly embrace clean hydroelectric power, despite the transmission line’s impact on the appearance of the north woods.

However, since Maine environmentalists aren’t clamoring for real-world, concrete action, to include CMP’s line, one can only conclude that environmental groups’ warnings regarding climate change are nothing but manufactured outrage and an opportunity to fill coffers with donations from well-meaning, if not gullible, followers.

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