Franklin Countys First News

Corridor opponents planning push for referendum question

Attendees at a meeting held at the Wilton Town Office included town officials, people in the forestry/wood products industry and local legislators.

WILTON - The director of the Say NO to NECEC group outlined some of the actions organizers intend to utilize against the New England Clean Energy Connect transmission line project in the coming months at a public meeting held at the town office Wednesday evening.

Most of the meeting was focused on the Central Maine Power corridor's potential impact to biomass power generation in Maine, as well as some of the industries dependent on biomass. Representatives of biomass plants, logging companies and wood product factories said that NECEC would negatively affect their businesses and imperil local jobs. The panel discussion was moderated by Tom Saviello, a Wilton selectperson and opponent of the NECEC project. The audience included local town officials, people in the forestry and/or wood products industry and local legislators.

Mark Thibodeau, a regional manager with Reenergy Holdings, which has plants in Stratton and Livermore Falls, said that 50 people were directly employed by his company, producing between 500,000 to 600,000 megawatt hours per year through the consumption of 800,000 tons of wood residue per year. He was concerned that running 1,200 megawatts of hydropower into the state's electric grid could result in increased periods of congestion for ReEnergy's product - rising from congestion 1 to 3 percent of the time to 10 to 15 percent. That would represent up to two months of increased charges, line loss and other issues relating to congestion, Thibodeau said.

The focus of the capacity question has been on potential bottlenecks within the grid, such as the Maine/New Hampshire interface at the border. CMP is planning upgrades to their existing infrastructure, such as 26.5 miles of new transmission line in an existing corridor between Windsor and Wiscasset, and improvements in Pownal, Sabbatus and Lewiston. In the past, CMP has argued that the biggest change from NECEC will be replacing retiring fossil fuel plants in New England, not displacing biomass and other local generators.

While acknowledging that upgrades were planned for the grid, Thibodeau said that pushing the bottleneck further south, to the Maine/New Hampshire border for example, would leave ReEnergy and other Maine plants facing the same congestion issue.

Others spoke to the importance of the biomass plants within the sphere of the wood products industry. Donny Isaacson, representing PalletOne Inc. in Livermore Falls, said that his company needed the biomass industry to help dispose of waste material created through the manufacture of wooden pallets. Loggers, foresters and property owners in the audience spoke to other issues: removing branches and wood chips after logging jobs and allowing woodlot owners to collect on higher yields by utilizing more material.

Bob Linkletter, of Linkletter and Sons Inc. in Athens said that waste was inherent to the wood products industry. "There is a waste when you take a round tree and cut it into a square board," he said.

Following the panel discussion, Sandi Howard, the director of Say NO to NECEC, outlined some of her organization's next steps. She said that local groups in towns along the NECEC corridor could consider supporting moratoriums: temporarily refusing to consider energy infrastructure project applications while updating ordinances. That could block municipal permits; however at a meeting in Chesterville on July 25, Thorn Dickinson, a vice president with Avangrid, CMP's parent company and the NECEC project manager, said in response to a question that CMP could approach the state Public Utilities Commission to appeal a local permitting decision. The MPUC previously granted the project's Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity.

Say NO to NECEC is also exploring a referendum question to force a statewide vote of some kind on the project. A committee has been researching that option since Aug. 6; Howard said that $7,500 of the $25,000 necessary to launch the effort had been raised. The current goal would be to launch the petition drive in September, after the referendum question was vetted by the Secretary of State's Office. That would give organizers three-and-a-half months to gather the 63,000-plus signatures necessary to force a question onto the November 2020 ballot.

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27 Responses »

  1. The fact is biomass, as a stand alone electricity producer, is more expensive than other resources used to generate power. More expensive electricity has direct impact on what we pay for nearly every item we purchase. Stopping hydro power doesn't make biomass less expensive. Stopping a more efficient electricity source hurts the economy as energy is a basic requirement for every business, except for political monkey business.

  2. Clayton, I agree with what you state. The issues that I have with the NECEC is the fact that it ought to be able to stand on its potential merits and conducting an independent EIS is one of those. Just too many red flags for this NECEC and combine that with cmp's 'smart meter' problem and how its handling it I have ZERO trust in that company or its parent company and their Spanish master. There is certainly a use for biomass in Maine - but could probably be done more effectively and efficiently.

  3. During my career I learned to identify problems and solve them, not stop progress. Most all of the problems that I have heard about the NECEC could be addressed by making their solution a negotiated part of the deal. But, if you just want to have a project fail, for whatever your personal or business reasons, then there is no solution. And that's most of what I hear in the press concerning opposition.
    Before any personal accusations fly, I have no association with or love for CMP and will survive either way this goes.

  4. The fact is that the biomass capability already exists and is already in use. The CMP power line is more destructive to the overall health of Maine's environment. The permitted access for this power line already exists in Vermont. The need to come through Maine is for pure greed on CMP's parent company. After all they've done to lose the trust of their customers, how could you even trust them at this point. Put it to referendum!!

  5. What are the voters going to vote on, whether or not AVANGRID/CMP can use the land they already own or have secured the rights to? How is that anybody's business? There are days when the Livermore Falls biomass plant can't even keep up with Verso, plus there is no way biomass plants in Livermore Falls and Stratton are putting out the equivalent of Hoover Dam, especially when biomass only makes up one fifth of Maine's power generation.

  6. 'Trust' this company that sends Thorn Dickinson a person who draws a fat pay check from an International Corporation in Europe who tries to backdoor the permit issue and jam this project across our state ?
    I will tell you who you can trust...The man who wrote the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson when he wrote in strong plain English.."Never Trust Your Government" For years we citizens have been lulled to sleep by men and organizations who's only motive is GREED.

  7. MaineBoy, while I agree with much of what you state, I still have to ask how you can see by the fact that this is a FOR-PROFIT proposal by cmp and it does NOT benefit Maine (to name 2). Why don't they need to have an EIS? Why is it that we are addressing climate change by flattening 3500 acres of land forever? There's a lot more but you get my drift. They could bury the thing, which is an industry standard for HVDC lines, but nope, we need to do it on the cheap and expose the remaining forested area to a greater risk of fires. At any rate, I would not categorize this as stopping progress, I might say that we are requiring what should be done.

  8. As part of its 18-month permitting process, the Maine Public Utilities Commission was presented with the question of line congestion. Here's what they concluded in their May 3, 2019 order:

    "With respect to the congestion issues raised by [the electricity generator intervenors Calpine Corporation, Vistra Energy and Bucksport Generation] and NextEra, the Commission finds that the record does not support a finding that the NECEC will result in a material increase in congestion in Maine. The analyses of both Daymark and LEI indicate only small increases in the number of hours that either the Surowiec-South or Maine-New Hampshire interface would be congested. Daymark Report at 25; LEI Report at 25. In addition, the [generator intervenors'] modeling indicated no congestion at the Surowiec-South interface and only modest congestion at the Maine-New Hampshire interface. Hearing Tr. at 127 (Jan. 8, 2019); Daymark Reb. Test. at 19. NextEra, based on its initial modeling, asserted that the NECEC would result in significant congestion. However, NextEra subsequently ACKNOWLEDGED ERRORS in its modeling that render their RESULTS UNRELIABLE [emphasis added]. Hearing Tr. at 7-55 (Oct. 22, 2018). Finally, the Commission notes that, to the extent the NECEC did result in increased congestion and/or losses in Maine, this would result in lower wholesale energy prices in the Maine Zone."

  9. The fact is that quite a few people will be losing their permanent jobs here in Maine if the NECEC is allowed to proceed, now, and in the future.

    The fact is that CMP will only be producing 37 permanent jobs, while they pocket millions a month.
    And l wouldn’t hold my breath on those 38 jobs. CMP will replace those workers with something “smarter” later on.

    Livermore folks, you have a vote on the NECEC coming up on the 20th of this month. Please come on out to the vote. We need to save jobs and our economies, in the towns that will be impacted most, by the Corridor.

  10. Sorry folks about the 37/38 permanent job confusion that the NECEC might produce in my previous comment.
    CMP keeps changing the numbers.

  11. I am in favor of the corridor. My children and grandchildren will need more electricity, not less. As for me, I am near the exit and really don't matter.

  12. I am in not favor of the corridor. My children and grandchildren will need at least one beautiful place to "be", not less if them.. As for me, I am near the exit and this is important to me.

  13. The point of the meeting was that bio-mass was in jeopardy from the congestion from Canadian power being injected into the Maine grid. If the boi-mass goes away,, where does the wood waste go? Where does PalletOne send its waste? Not into the river, cant burn it, and then it is not profitable to make pallets as the waste would cost money to landfill. Right now they make money selling it to ReEnergy, it is not a liability. And where does all the slash and chip piles from the timber industry go? The working forest of Western Maine do more to keep the region green then all the hydro power Quebec can send. How many jobs in the region are directly tied to the forest industry? They will all be affected. And what does Maine get? Thirty seven cents a month? Vermont is ready to send it thru on their end ,,,, let them, it does Maine NO good !!!

  14. Mr. Dudley,

    Do not speak to me of ACKNOWLEDGING ERRORS in research. LD640 was vetoed by Governor Janet Mills.

  15. Is it really that tough to make a choice between water flowing through a turbine or burning slash that should be left in the woods as fertilizer? As far as the mills go there is a market for their bark as mulch and chips to pellet mills.

  16. Ben Dudley, those of us who are not highly compensated to spin the truth, as you are, and have watched this process from the beginning recognize that the PUC is in the pockets of big industry and certain politicians. Otherwise, they would have supported an independent study (which the legislature did but Janet vetoed), not permitted based on the vague term "public necessity" and took into consideration 98% of public comments against the NECEC. And don't give me that crap about the CMP funded LEI study which was limited and biased.

    And while yes, biomass is a more expensive form of energy, it has a lot going for it as it gives back to Maine not Spain: Benefits = 1) lots of good, rural Maine jobs 2) its renewable energy that provides base power, meaning it is not dependent of sun or wind to generate. 3) the money produced stays local, and includes the people working and consulting at the plant, the loggers, mechanics, truckers, fuel services and all other things local money sandwiches at the corner store. 4) woodlot owners also benefit in a couple ways-returns on a harvest can increase up to 30%, which can be make or break for some harvests and using the tops and branches for biomass makes for a much cleaner lot without inhibiting tree return under "slash piles".

    Good jobs in Strong, Stratten and Livermore are hard to come by, and this is one additional negative to the NECEC, the loss of those jobs. Oh, by the way, CMP lies. the NECEC will cost Maine hundreds if not thousands of jobs.

    Of note, for environmental consideration- biomass is a net neutral green house gas producer. Whether that carbon atom rots on the forest floor or is burned for biomass power it is the same carbon impact.

    So the question is again: Maine or Spain? A second question to consider- do we actually want foreign entities controlling our power grids? just a thought

    Say No to NECEC is holding a FUNdraiser at Titcomb Mt on September 14th, with bands, food and information. Please join us, this question of the CMP corridor will soon be coming to the people.

  17. Amazed at the responses - first, Tom Knight - with the NECEC .... Maine does NOT get any electricity, it goes to MA and perhaps it's sold back or not. But there are different routes that already exist. HB - not sure where you get this info, but anyone who wants to build SOMETHING needs to get a permit for building. So, why is flattening 3500 acres forever any different??? You want to build a garage on YOUR property? Can you build that without any permitting? (legally??). And Ben Dudley? JHC - cmp pretty much owns the PUC. I simply want to ask WHY is there no necessity for an EIS for this project?????? This is an extremely ecosystem damaging project, yet there is no requirement for an estimate of environmental cost to Maine? Huh??? Absolutely ridiculous and the same for the NECEC. Climate change? Do the research ..... 15 years of research show that HQ's dam(s) do NOT contribute to climate change benefits at all. The propaganda proffered by cmp about climate change is totally laughable. So, ben, you need to go back to create another approach that isn't so blatantly misguided.

  18. It is infuriating to me that they are still going ahead in towns with their projects for the Corridor. The ATV trails in Jay that run along Rt 4 have been shut down for a couple of weeks now. They are stripping trees and making room. Who is doing it? Well, there are Mass energy trucks parked on Old Jay Hill Rd every day with other work vehicles. WE VOTED THEM OUT and they are still tearing up our land to get this project going. When do we drive them out? When does our governor and other local governments stop their own agenda and listen to the over 70% of Maine that doesn't want this project? You work for us, not the other way around. Who else is seeing this in their towns? Need to start making it clear that these votes and meetings are not just a formality, we mean that we don't want it.

  19. Maine is not the only place in my country. I believe the maxim, "A rising tide raises all ships." Getting the power into the grid will make it available to our country. I am in favor of the corridor. I also know why the trail is being dug up.

  20. Kit the trail being shut down in jay is the sewer main getting put in . There was an article about it a little while ago saying they would be shut down temporarily.

  21. Tom Knight,

    Vermont is ready to go, the line will go underground, and it will be more efficient for “our country.”
    Here in Maine you have numerous towns voting no to the NECEC, citizens starting moratoriums against high powered transmission lines in towns, a CMP billing scandal, anger over vetoed legislation that should have never been vetoed concerning the NECEC, a very probable citizens referendum, and now a push too make the NECEC a federal issue. If you were the powers to be in Massachusetts and you were paying for this line, which state would you invest your money in?

  22. Kit, the sky is not falling. We like sewer lines, remember?

  23. One simple word "JOBS", plain and simple.

  24. Who is FOR the line? I believe it's all the people south of Lewiston. What do they care? It won't effect them. This is another push from southern Maine to reek havoc on Northern Maine. They LOVE to control things.
    For that simple reason, I don't support the CMP line.

  25. Good to know...from Mass though? I still call BS. Drive by during the week, not kidding.

  26. Wake up, if you mean local jobs lost, you are correct. This weekend we raised 10k to fight CMP'S bottomless pockets. We are grassroots. #maineoverspaine

  27. Daryl, sounds like there are a lot more people out there that are misinformed like we were, people we are not going to benefit from any jobs, or rather what jobs Maine gets are far less than the ones that will be lost from businesses being closed. Get all the behind d the scenes facts before you vote for this. CMP will still raise their prices and what little bit in cents that we might get will be over 40 years. Figure it out. I could see the look on their faces when we sent a revote, they didn't like that we were bringing it all to light.