The referendum on the Central Maine Power corridor is not on the ballots this fall, but the influence operation continues with a focus on skeptical candidates. A ballot question to undo a permitting rule allowing the construction of the $1 proposed hydropower corridor from Canada through western Maine was ruled unconstitutional by Maine’s high court earlier this year. Groups that were prepared to campaign on the referendum have not given up as the corridor seems primed to continue as a divisive political issue.
Two groups supportive of the corridor, Clean Energy Matters and Hydro-Quebec — respectively affiliated with CMP and the Canadian company that would supply the hydropower — continued spending after the question was off the ballot, according to campaign filings due on Monday.
The CMP-linked group and Hydro-Quebec spent a record $20.6 million on the campaign as of September’s end, with some of that coming after the 2020 anti-corridor question was struck from the ballot. It included a $489,000 advertising purchase and a pricey round of polling in late August.
But legislators seem overwhelmingly opposed to the project despite support from the current and former governor. A wide majority of candidates who responded to the Bangor Daily News’ candidate survey said they were opposed to the project, suggesting the utility will find a less-friendly environment in Augusta next year after Gov. Janet Mills used her veto pen to the project from bills aimed at the project that carried only narrow majority support.
The issue does not fall clearly along partisan lines. Mills, a Democrat, and former Gov. Paul LePage, a Republican, support it. Proponents argue it would lower energy prices, bring jobs to Maine and accelerate clean energy uptake in New England, while opponents worry about the environmental effects and say benefits will mostly go to consumers in Massachusetts.