Signature petition drive may stop CMP’s transmission corridor through pristine Maine

Mills apparently chooses CMP over rural Maine's environment and UMaine offshore wind energy project 

By Ramona du Houx

A citizen initiative application to collect signatures to stop Central Maine Power’s (CMP’s) proposed $1 billion transmission corridor was filed with Maine’s Secretary of State in August, 2019. The application was filed by Thomas Saviello, a former state senator from Wilton, is expected to be accepted paving the way for a petition voter signature drive. 

The application will now go through the Legislature’s Revisor of Statutes Office before it goes back to the Secretary of State, which would post it. If approved petitioners will need to secure more than 63,000 certified signatures by mid-February to get the question on the ballot in Nov. 2020. 

CMP is scheduled to build a 145-mile, high-voltage, direct current transmission line from the Quebec-Maine border to an interconnection with the existing New England grid in Lewiston. About 53 miles of the CMP transmission line route would have to be built creating the transmission corridor. Some of this land runs adjacent to rural homes, some would require clearing of a large, currently undisturbed, swath of Maine’s North Woods. The electricity would be funneled via giant electric towers, the same kind of towers that collapsed in Canada during the infamous 1998 ice storm.

CMP would also expand the remaining 92 miles of transmission line, requiring clearing more vegetation and undertaking additional development within existing lines.

The CMP transmission corridor includes above-ground transmission lines across the Kennebec River Gorge, the Appalachian Trail, 263 wetlands, 115 streams, 12 inland waterfowl and wading bird habitat areas, and near Beattie Pond, a Class 6 remote pond.

 The major worry is that the corridor as proposal doesn’t benefit Mainers as much of CMP’s promotional ads say. Most importantly it will damage the environment.

 “The Natural Resources Council of Maine opposes the CMP corridor because it would harm Maine forests and wildlife, suppress Maine's renewable energy industry, and could actually increase climate change emissions, all without any clear benefit to Maine or Massachusetts,” declares the NRDCM website.

According to polls, over 70 percent of Mainers don’t want the corridor.

The corridor, known as the New England Clean Energy Connect, would pipe Canadian electricity from the Canadian border through western Maine for use by Massachusetts to meet that state’s clean energy goals. Although CMP promotional materials claim they will be importing hydro-eclectic power there are no written guarantees that will happen. But Canada uses and exports many dirt forms of energy, including Tar Sand oil.

Governor Janet Mills has fought for the CMP corridor using the hydro-electric connection as a selling point. At the same time the University of Maine spent the last eighteen years developing offshore floating wind turbines. They tested their technologies and were poised to deploy a wind farm, out of sight and sound, but Governor Paul LePage pulled the plug on that development which would had seen Maine exporting clean energy. Now, the University of Maine’s Aqua Ventus I, that 12 MW offshore wind power project, has a chance for rebirth. (Photo)

While Gov. Mills is publicly supportive of UMaine’s patented project promoting Maine’s clean energy, her actions are clearly behind the CMP corridor by vetoing Rep. Berry’s legislation. She’s siding with a plan originally developed under Gov. LePage, with a few changes made by her administration. 

State Rep. Seth Berry, who serves as House chair of the Joint Standing Committee on Energy, Utilities and Technology, proposed legislation that would have given power to people and their municipalities to decide whether the CMP corridor is acceptable in their communities. Their votes would have been the democratic way to decide the fate of the land these Mainers call home. Lands used for environmental uses and recreational environmental tourism, which many make their livelihoods from.

Rep. Berry’s legislation passed the State House and Senate, but Gov. Mills vetoed it. 

All this is happening during a time when CMP is under investigation by the state for irregularities in billing customers—mainly over billing. Some of the irregular bills have bankrupted Mainers causing heartache and stress, according to the Portland Press Herald. UMaine is the state’s university with research scientists who have proven their technologies, and are ethically minded. CMP is after the profit margin for shareholders. 

CMP’s corridor is on schedule to go into commercial operation Dec. 13, 2022.