The Battle of Gettysburg was not fought to save wooded Gettysburg hilltops, and the NECEC referendum isn’t about saving the Maine woods. The causes are evident, even through the fog of war.

The Union victory at Gettysburg, turned by the 20th Maine at Little Round Top, doomed the Confederacy and slavery and birthed our march to civil rights.

To defeat the climate crisis, we must replace fossil-fueled heating and transportation with an expanded grid and vastly more renewable electricity. “Beneficial electrification” can occur only if renewable electricity can use the grid to reach consumers.

Here’s the challenge: The long-frustrated importation of renewable Canadian hydroelectricity challenges our society’s ability to defeat the climate crisis. The question is: will fossil fuel and nuclear generators be allowed to defeat or delay the increased renewable electricity necessary to power climate mitigation? Today those non-renewable generators are succeeding, with grave climate implications.

New England has struggled to replace its huge fossil fuel reliance with renewable electricity. After Massachusetts contracted for Canadian hydroelectricity through a New Hampshire transmission line, opposition arose, apparently funded by existing fossil fueled and nuclear generators with millions of dollars in “dark money.” New Hampshire denied the necessary permits. When Massachusetts turned to NECEC, the “dark money” poured into Maine.

The fossil-fueled and nuclear generators apparently have invested millions of dollars in New Hampshire and then Maine, and now tens of millions in lawfully reported additional Maine contributions to block the lines. Blocking essential transmission blocks the renewable electricity.

Public filings and research by journalists identify forces suppressing competing renewable electricity. New England Power Generators Association (NEPGA) admitted instigating citizen groups against the New Hampshire and Maine power lines. NextEra’s law firm admitted funneling “dark money” to citizen groups in New Hampshire and has blocked disclosure of “dark money” contributions against NECEC in Maine. The group Miscellany: Blue tracked renewable and other new energy source suppression groups in multiple states, concluding the source appeared to be NextEra, owner of the 1200 megawatt Seabrook nuclear plant in New Hampshire and the 846 megawatt oil-fired Wyman Station plant in Yarmouth, Maine.

This evidence of suppression is confirmed by public filings now mandated by Maine law. NextEra has admitted contributing $13,525,000 so far to defeat NECEC; Maine gas-fired generators Calpine and Vistra disclosed contributing $688,323 and $668,823 to date, respectively. Virtually all of the funds opposing NECEC have come from those fossil-fueled and nuclear generators. The pattern is clear.

Here’s why they fight NECEC:

Under New England grid rules, additional renewable electricity lowers the price of all electricity sold to consumers. NECEC would lower prices by three-tenths of a cent per kilowatt hour. That’s at least $350 million dollars per year of savings for consumers. It’s also some $350 million dollars per year in lower profits for existing generators, reducing the profits of NextEra’s Seabrook nuclear plant by some $30 million per year and others proportionately. If NECEC is killed, so much the better for existing generators. The math is simple: Delay of renewable electricity pays them well.

For the planet, the math is deadly serious. Lost climate mitigation puts success further in doubt. We are perilously close (1.1 degrees Celsius) to that irreversible global temperature increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius. For us, delay kills.

Referendums aren’t the only existing generator obstacles. NextEra refuses todo a timely upgrade of a protective breaker within the Seabrook plant necessary to safely operate NECEC. Renewable electricity grid interconnection approval is a fraught process that can take years and millions of dollars. Existing generators powerfully affect that process.

The battle of NECEC is no more about protecting the Maine woods than Gettysburg was about protecting states’ rights and Southern honor. Maine helped win the Battle of Gettysburg because Maine soldiers knew the existential principles at stake at Gettysburg. Today we know we have a perilously brief time in which to defeat the suppression of renewable electricity by fossil fueled and nuclear generators. Renewable electricity is essential to enable civilization to defeat the climate crisis. But without full grid access for renewable electricity, the fierce urgency of climate action now will fail.


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