The US’ Green Party is coming out strong against a proposed $1 billion project to bring Quebec hydropower through Maine to feed into the electricity grid that supplies New England.
Jill Stein, twice the party’s presidential candidate, said Wednesday that the Central Maine Power proposal would be “a bad deal for everyone” in Quebec, Maine and Massachusetts, which seeks to have the hydropower delivered to its residents as part of a long-term effort to switch to renewable energy sources.
Stein called it “a fake clean energy project” because it is neither clean nor green since it requires cutting a path through miles of forest. She said it is preposterous for Mainers to sacrifice woodlands that are needed to help deal with the world’s most pressing emergency, the climate crisis caused by rising levels of greenhouse gases.
“Downing all those trees is certainly not green,” Lisa Savage, the party’s U.S. Senate candidate in Maine, said. She said the huge dams in Quebec are destroying natural habitats that are increasingly crucial to the effort to slow the rise in temperatures globally.
The project’s roots lie in a 2016 agreement by Massachusetts, where Stein lives, to solicit proposals to deliver 9.45 terawatt hours of electricity from renewable sources such as hydropower, windmills and solar. The Bay State selected CMP’s New England Clean Energy Connect plan to deliver power produced by dams in Quebec via a new transmission line through western Maine that would connect to the existing grid at a new substation in Lewiston.
The whole project “kind of flew under the radar” in her home state, Stein said, so people didn’t realize how it would suppress “the development of real renewable energy” in the region.
Advocates for the project from CMP and NECEC insist it would provide hydropower that is far more green than the likely alternative for much of the electricity needed: natural gas. They say that it won’t crimp opportunities for other renewable projects that are going to be needed to deal with old plants closing in the coming years throughout New England.
Most of the 145-mile transmission line is slated to go within existing utility corridors, but a new swath would be cut through 53 miles of wilderness in western Maine to the Canadian border on land that CMP owns. It would also slice through about 20 miles of Canadian forest.
The project, endorsed by Gov. Janet Mills after the company gave Maine some concessions, already has a go-ahead from the state’s Public Utilities Commission. It still needs the backing of U.S. government agencies and Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection and Land Use Planning Commission. For Lewiston, the project offers the potential of a major new substation that would provide as much as $8 million in additional property taxes annually.
For Stein, though, the project undercuts what she sees as the potential boon of an alternative view — a green new deal that would convert Maine’s defense industries into ones creating the equipment for a surge in renewable energy sources. “This could be a jobs bonanza,” she said.
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