The Central Maine Power corridor that will be the focus of a public vote in November provides no new energy and does nothing to encourage energy efficiency or conservation. It is just a power line allowing CMP and Hydro-Quebec to make billions by selling electricity to Massachusetts, which is willing to pay a premium.
To do this, Hydro-Quebec would engage in a “shell game,” shuffling current sales from Canadian provinces, New York state and the Midwest (which pay Hydro-Quebec less) to Massachusetts. This does nothing to reduce overall carbon emissions because those other places would need to make up for lost electricity sales from Hydro-Quebec. The only way to do this quickly is by ramping up natural gas or coal electricity generation, resulting in increased carbon dioxide emissions.
In other words, any potential emissions reductions in Massachusetts would result in a corresponding increase in emissions somewhere else. With Hydro-Quebec and CMP’s electricity shell game, western Maine’s forests and brook trout streams get hammered, CMP and Hydro-Quebec make a fortune, and we get no climate benefit.
The Public Utilities Commission could have worked in the interest of Mainers by examining this shell game scenario before it gave CMP the green light to hack through Maine’s woods. Instead, the PUC relied on a flawed consultant study that assumed all the power coming through the CMP corridor would be new, zero-carbon power, thereby not increasing emissions outside of New England. We know this is not true. In its proposed contract with Massachusetts, Hydro-Quebec stated that it would build no new generation for the CMP corridor and would rely entirely on existing facilities. The New Hampshire state government concluded that Northern Pass, a project very similar to the CMP corridor that New Hampshire regulators rejected, would not benefit the climate without new generation sources. Again, Hydro-Quebec stated in its proposed contract with Massachusetts that it would build no new generation for the CMP corridor!
Sen. Brownie Carson introduced a bill in the 2019 legislative session that called for an objective study of CMP’s claims about climate change. After the Maine Senate supported the bill 30-4, CMP hired the largest army of lobbyists I have seen in 23 years of working at the State House. The lobbyists convinced enough legislators in the House to oppose L.D. 640 that although it passed handily, the legislation did not receive the two-thirds support required to start the study immediately. That study would have been completed more than 10 months ago and would have allowed Maine people to know the truth about CMP’s bogus climate claims. Former governor and current climate change denier Paul LePage was among the paid CMP lobbyists who fought the study.
The Department of Environmental Protection also failed Maine people by issuing CMP a permit for the corridor. DEP refused to allow experts to speak to climate issues in its two-year hearing process. Still, DEP used the same flawed consultant study the PUC relied on to claim that the corridor’s purported climate benefits would justify its 53-mile scar through the western Maine woods.
Neither the PUC nor the DEP were willing to address the elephant in the room: CMP’s climate claims are bogus. CMP and Hydro-Quebec have spared no expense to block any objective examination of their claims. They have also spent $16 million on a political campaign to trick Mainers into thinking the CMP corridor is good for the environment. Maine people understand that no one works this hard to hide something when they have nothing to hide. CMP has proven repeatedly that it does not act in the best interest of Mainers or our environment. The CMP corridor is just an energy shell game that would wreck Maine’s forests and streams and provide no help fighting climate change.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Nick Bennett is staff scientist and Healthy Waters director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine.