Ten “Maine environmental leaders” signed on to a full-page ad last week endorsing the New England Clean Energy Connect project, Central Maine Power’s bid to transfer Hydro-Quebec electricity from Canada through Maine to Boston. Like everyone who opposes NECEC, I was deeply saddened to see these former leaders attach their names to such a problematic project.

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

I say “former leaders” because all of the signatories are, like myself, creatures of the 1970s and 1980s. Dick Anderson was director of Maine Audubon from 1969 to 1977 and commissioner of the Maine Department of Conservation from 1981-87. Dick Barringer was commissioner of conservation from 1975 to 1981 and director of the Maine State Planning Office from 1981-86. Tom Rumpf was the state entomologist from 1986-88. Rob Gardiner was director of the Natural Resources Council of Maine from 1978 to 1983 and headed the Bureau of Public Lands from 1983-87. Lloyd Irland was director of the Maine Bureau of Public Lands from 1979 to 1981 and then served as state economist from 1981-85. Sherry Huber was president of Maine Audubon from 1971-75. Christian Herter III was director of NRCM from 1975-78. Sam Zaitlin was on the Maine Board of Environmental Protection from 1979 to 1986. Walter Anderson was the state geologist from 1979 to 1995. And Orlando Delogu served on Maine BEP from 1969 to 1974.

My initial reaction was that these old farts were full of gas, even though some of them are old friends.

While I give these old folks credit for actually believing that the hydropower pass-through will have environmental benefits, I think they are sadly mistaken. There is no evidence that NECEC will reduce greenhouse gases and CMP lobbyists made sure the Maine Legislature did not demand an impact study.

CMP has a long history of opposing alternative energy and conservation. To believe that CMP is suddenly devoted to combating climate change simply strains credulity. CMP is the lowest-rated utility in the country. Bottom line: you can’t believe a thing CMP says.

New Hampshire did its due diligence and turned this electrical corridor project down despite being offered more than the $250 million in bribes offered to Maine. Maine should shoot this turkey as well.

What the endorsement of NECEC by these environmental elders underscores is how complex environmental issues have become. These days, you will find people who think of themselves as environmentalists on both sides of many issues – wind power, Plum Creek’s Moosehead Lake development, now CMP’s NECEC.

The Natural Resources Council of Maine, Sierra Club, Appalachian Mountain Club, Trout Unlimited, Environment Maine, Forest Ecology Network and Maine Rivers are among the many environmental organizations opposed to NECEC. No environmental organizations have endorsed NECEC, and CMP was forced to take down a webpage that said a few did, so the so-called “environmental leaders” who signed the ad have taken sides with the likes of Associated General Contractors of Maine, Cianbro, E.S. Boulos Company, Maine State Chamber of Commerce and Shaw Brothers Construction. Sad.

There may be legitimate arguments pro and con transmitting Canadian hydropower through Maine to the New England grid, but the fact that “environmentalists” cannot agree on the merits and demerits of the project simply makes it more unlikely that we will ever be able to solve our serious environmental problems.

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