Power Line campaign is the most expensive in Maine history | Maine News
By DAVID SHARP, Associated Press
PORTLAND, Maine (AP) – The Mainers have weighed in on a number of high-profile issues – casinos, universal healthcare, marijuana legalization, assisted suicide, abortion and same-sex marriage, to name a few.
None of them reach the expense level like the battle for a 145 mile (233 kilometer) power line.
More than $ 90 million of utilities went to the fight for the Massachusetts taxpayer-funded $ 1 billion project that supporters say would remove carbon from the environment and provide needed electricity.
The high-stakes campaign has put environmental and conservation groups at odds and pitted utilities supporting the project against operators of fossil-fueled power plants who stand to lose money.
Democratic Governor Janet Mills, who backs the project, made a last-minute argument this weekend for bold action on climate change. “We just cannot afford to do nothing,” she said.
A polling question on Tuesday will give voters in Maine a say.
The project has received all necessary permits and construction began 10 months ago. But a court ruling called into question a state lease for a 1.6-kilometer section. More litigation is expected regardless of the outcome of the vote.
Lewiston Mayor Mark Cayer said he did not understand the opposition, noting that the new sections were being built in logged forests which have been logged several times over the years.
“In Maine and New England, the idea of change can sometimes be emotional. A lot of people are looking at ‘not in my garden’, ”he said.
At the time it was proposed, Central Maine Power believed it had a winner after the Northern Pass project kicked off in New Hampshire. Both projects aimed to bring an abundance of renewable energy to the region through Hydro-Quebec, which produces excess electricity from its dams.
By rejecting the 192-mile (309-kilometer) New Hampshire project, regulators questioned the promised benefits and worried about the impact it would have on rural communities. Their decision was upheld in court.
Maine’s proposal for a transmission line mainly followed existing utility corridors. But a new section had to be cut through 53 miles (85 kilometers) of woodland to reach the border.
The project would provide up to 1,200 megawatts of Canadian hydroelectricity to the New England grid.
Arguments against the project are presented in black and white in advertisements that suggest that the project is only benefiting Massachusetts, that it is destroying pristine wilderness, that there has been some sort of behind-the-scenes deal. Even environmentalists disagree on the environmental benefit.
Supporters say big proposals are needed to tackle climate change. They say the project would reduce carbon emissions by 3.6 million metric tonnes, benefiting the region, not just Massachusetts.
CMP offered $ 258 million in incentives in Maine that would increase the number of electric vehicle charging stations, subsidize heat pumps, improve high-speed internet in rural areas, and help low-income customers.
The town of Lewiston has already received half of its $ 3 million in property tax increases thanks to the project. In total, more than 20 communities will share $ 5.4 million in annual tax increases.
But that is nothing compared to the money poured into the campaign.
Three opposing utilities that operate fossil-fueled power plants in the region have contributed more than $ 27 million to stop the project. Central Maine Power, affiliated utilities and Hydro Quebec donated over $ 64 million to support the project.
Spending is unprecedented for a referendum in Maine.
In comparison, roughly $ 9.2 million was spent on a battle for a York County casino in 2017, and nearly $ 8 million was spent to overturn the state’s same-sex marriage law in 2009, according to a report completed this summer for government oversight. Committee.
“In Maine, we’ve never had anything like this for a referendum,” said Mark Brewer, professor of political science at the University of Maine.
The amount of campaign money is baffling to Anya Fetcher, director of Environment Maine, who opposes the project.
“At the end of the day, I wish all of this money that went into marketing and campaigning could just go to clean energy solutions,” she said.
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