Ensuring a healthy future for the Maine Woods – its plants and trees, animals and fish, jobs and industries – requires us to recognize its biggest threat: climate change. To reduce the devastating effects of climate change, we must take some big steps. These will not be easy, nor will all our tools be perfect. But, we must move quickly.

We care deeply about our state’s forests. We have had the privilege of working throughout our careers to ensure the North Woods of Maine are productive and protected. We continue to do that and believe the Clean Energy Corridor is one of those big – and important – steps that must be taken immediately to reduce the greenhouse gas  emissions causing climate change. The transmission of this renewable hydroelectric power into New England will remove three million tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year being produced by natural gas, oil and coal-generated power sources. Removing these emissions is part of the solution to protect the forests that are central to Maine’s identity and so critical to our future.

Impartial experts with the Maine Public Utilities Commission  spent 18 months reviewing the project, receiving input from all stakeholders and established findings of fact by its career staff. Following this thorough process, the MPUC unanimously authorized the Clean Energy Corridor, citing “reductions in overall GHG emissions through corresponding reductions of fossil fuel generation (primarily natural gas) in the region” as one of the many benefits of the project.

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection  also granted a permit for this project, after a separate 29-month review. The DEP was very clear throughout its own public hearings and in its approval that assessment of GHG emissions fell under the PUC’s jurisdiction. The project is moving forward because it will deliver clean, renewable – strictly monitored – and cheap electricity to customers throughout New England, including right here in Maine.

If you question hydropower’s impact on reducing emissions, we urge you to consult the experts: A recent scientific study  comparing the environmental impacts of various types of power generation around the world, found that GHG emissions from Hydro-Québec’s reservoirs were among the lowest — about the same as wind and less than solar. The study was conducted by a renowned international life cycle analysis center, not individuals with cherry-picked data and outdated studies.

Unfortunately, one sector of the forest industry – biomass power plants – has been struggling for the past several years. Two reports highlight the issues facing the biomass industry. A 2018 report commissioned by the Maine Development Foundation found “Maine has lost significant markets for biomass, primarily due to lost energy generation at now-closed pulp and paper mills.” The prior year, a report prepared for the Governor’s Energy Office determined “the revenue at biomass electricity facilities does not cover the cost of operations at standalone facilities in Maine. There is no reason to expect the economic situation of these facilities to change soon.” Both reports discuss how consumption of natural gas – as the fuel used in electric generation and accessed directly by paper mills – has hurt the biomass industry.

As noted in the MPUC order, upgrades planned for Maine’s electricity infrastructure as a result of this project may well make it easier for renewable energy sources, including biomass, to connect to the power grid. Maine’s renewable energy sector must grow dramatically, and soon.  The power delivered by this project is essential to that growth, as intermittent power sources like sun and wind need to be balanced by other continuously available sources.

To those who criticize foreign companies (Iberdrola and Hydro Quebec) developing a project that will better Maine’s environment – we would note that both Spain and Canada endorse the Paris Climate Accord while our country, regrettably, does not.

Maine’s forests are integral to our environment, our culture, our economy, and our sense of what makes Maine truly Maine. Transmission of clean hydropower, along with development of other renewables, energy storage and conservation are all necessary strategies to safeguard the Maine Woods from future climate change.

As we see it, the perfect must not be the enemy of the good.

 

 

 

 

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