“Do you want to ban the construction of high-impact electric transmission lines in the Upper Kennebec Region and to require the Legislature to approve all other such projects anywhere in Maine, both retroactively to 2020, and to require the Legislature, retroactively to 2014, to approve by a two-thirds vote such projects using public land?”- Question one on the November Ballot.
In November Mainers will vote yes or no on a citizens initiative question to either stop (yes) or allow (no) the New England Clean Energy Connect (NECEC) project to transmit Quebec hydropower through northwestern Maine down to Massachusetts. A (very) small portion of that power is reserved for Mainers, and the climate alarmists in Massachusetts and Maine very much want to replace fossil fuel (mostly natural gas, the cleanest and cheapest fossil fuel) with “clean” “renewable” hydropower.
The NECEC project requires the clearing of some 334 acres of trees for the corridor, plus an unknown amount for access roads. The climate alarmists have previously argued that trees are the key to capturing and sequestering evil carbon “pollution”. Some of those trees are on public land, which requires a 2/3 legislative approval for use changes, approval which both the LePage and Mills administrations conveniently forgot to request.
The ballot question is somewhat opaque and confusing, and has so far been the subject of about $60 million in opaque and confusing advertising designed to either put the fear of evil foreign corporations (according to the yes proponents) or a stagnant failing state economy (according to the no proponents) into the Maine electorate. Much of the state already hates Central Maine Power anyway. The climate alarmists are alarmingly quiet, perhaps sensing that neither openly supporting nor opposing the project is their best strategy to emerge unscathed and unblamed.
Like the 2016 Presidential election, I wish there was a third option- none of the above. Both sides are truth challenged, and it is hardly a good deal for Maine. If we ‘re going to chop up the Maine woods for Massachusetts, we should have made it contingent on chopping up Massachusetts for a natural gas pipeline, which we need a lot more than Quebec hydropower, and which would have orders of magnitude more climate and economic benefit. Quebec Hydropower is attractive, but no energy source is environmentally benign, and making the climatistas admit that wind and solar are equally if not more problematic than nukes and hydro would be at the top of my list of demands. And while the Maine Chamber of Commerce piously whines about “retroactivity”, “uncertainty” and the wonders of trusting the “experts” in the permitting process, I know that those same experts gave us car testing, reformulated gas, “special” waste landfills and probably dozens of other SNAFU and FUBAR situations over the last thirty plus years, starting with the denial of the Big A hydro project that led to the demise of Great Northern Paper. I would like to retroactively vote for a pox on all their houses.
Jon Reisman is an associate professor of economics and public policy at the University of Maine at Machias. His views are his own. Mr. Reisman welcomes comments as letters to the editor here, or to him directly via email at [email protected].