Franklin Countys First News

Letter to the Editor: NECEC and where we are now

It’s been almost a year now since I attended a meeting in Farmington about the CMP Corridor (NECEC). I recall that the CMP representatives were all dressed in their business casual garb, you know, the mandatory blue blazer, tan or gray pants, and light blue shirt (not confrontational white) with no tie. The ‘just one of the guys’ look.

Of course, Doug Herling gave us the usual speech about how he’s a Maine guy and just trying his best, as a poor native, to give back to Maine. I was impressed by the way the powerpoint presentation wasn’t too ‘corporate’ or ostentatious, but of course most of us in the audience cain’t read anyhow so it weren’t no big deal to cmp corporate big whigs. I saw that the benefits of the project were accentuated on a State scale, yet the comparative costs were presented on a county scale. Something just didn’t add up.

When the meeting got around to questioning we, in the audience, were limited to one question and no follow up. Question: “What is the sum of 2 + 5?” Answer from CMP – “9”. A questioner trying to follow up with “hey, I thought it was 7” was cut off because they got their one question for the night.

We were told that this project would bring great benefit to Maine and that we would garner nearly 3500 jobs and an investment of nearly $1 billion dollars. Wow, pretty impressive ...

So, where are we now? Following the election of Janet T. Mills, who, during her campaign, was against said NECEC (Corridor), suddenly turned her decision 180 degrees after the election, claiming that because of the marvelous deal she negotiated with CMP and because she was committed to climate change mitigation, this corridor was a good idea. The huge windfall she negotiated amounts to nearly 10 cents in every rate payer’s pocket – PER MONTH! Let’s now fast forward and bring this whole soap opera up to date.

Mills' climate change platform has taken a major hit because CMP even admitted that they have no guarantees that the electricity produced by HQ (green clean energy) passing through Maine to Massachusetts will actually do what they originally said.

Mr. John Carroll from CMP at a recent meeting: "So, the question about whether, whether this [NECEC] will make a difference in climate change. CMP has no, no doubt that it will - we can't guarantee it. That's not our job, that's not our business." *(go to: 1:19:02 to listen to Mr. Carroll's response:

The Attorney General of Massachusetts has come out in opposition to the Corridor because of contractual language with Hydro-Quebec. [Hydro-Quebec already sells significant amounts of electricity into New England through other existing lines. The proposed contracts don’t require the energy that Hydro-Quebec sells over the proposed transmission line to be in addition to that total. Instead, the language in the contracts would allow Hydro-Quebec to take the energy it already sells into the shared New England electricity market and redirect it to the proposed line for higher prices, critics said.

It is arguable that HQ will not be providing the climate change benefit that we have heard from the Governor and CMP. Hydro power is not really clean.

And about those 3,500 jobs and $1 billion invested in Maine? According to the new placards circulated by CMP that figure is now down to 1,600 jobs and $573 million ‘injected into the Maine economy.’ The project hasn’t even gone on line yet (pun intended) and we have already lost 1,900 jobs and $427 million. (do we have any explanation for the job loss and $$$ injection reduction?) And don’t forget, this is the company that cheated rate payers and is under investigation for doing so, not to mention we don’t get any of the electricity. Can we trust these guys? I don’t.

CMP/Avangrid spokesman Thorn Dickinson told a conference of energy bigwigs in NYC just last week (week of May 28th) that “NECEC opposition was ‘fake news’ and that Mainers were being tricked into opposition by sophisticated ‘Artificial Intelligence’ targeting like the Russians used.” (No – I am not making this up.) It's astounding how out-of-touch, disrespectful and unethical CMP continues to be. CMP has spent more than $1 million on TV ads and mailers that claim Mainers support their corridor – news flash: not all Mainers support the cmp corridor. Who is really providing fake news? But in reality land, Mainers are taking action to stop the project. Wilton voting to oppose the corridor was not "fake news." Neither was Starks. Nor Farmington, Nor The Forks, Nor the other 15 or so towns that have voted to oppose the corridor.

Nearly a year later we have learned of interesting conflicts of interest or questionable links that ought to raise eyebrows. We have the Mahoney brothers from Avangrid and the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF opposed the same type of project in New Hampshire but the brothers Mahoney are all for the Maine version – can you see a link?) Let’s not forget Peter Mills who is the head of the Maine Turnpike Authority and who is also on the Board of Directors of the Western Mountains & Rivers Corporation (WM&RC), a non-profit from the Forks – which, btw received $250,000 from CMP and the promise of $50,000/year for 5 years as part of a MOU signed with CMP ... and they don’t even have a website. The fact that the link between Peter and Janet doesn’t seem to bother too many people is disconcerting. Heather Johnson, one of Gov Mills’ new Commissioners was on the WM&RC Board of Directors with Mills. At least she resigned but the link is still there, deep inside of the new administration.

After all of this I am still struggling with the same question with which I started: Why is this NECEC project good for Maine? I have heard CMP and their affiliates, Avangrid and their Spanish parent company Iberdrola, state time and again "this project is good for Maine." Each time I ask “why is this project good for Maine?” Is it good for Maine because we get to flatten 3,500 acres of land forever to put up a fire hazard like an HVDC line? Is it good because we get to apply pesticides to our ecosystem? Or is it good just to destroy a lot of land so that our neighbor can have electricity it can get from other routes? Obviously I am a bit cynical. Why is this good for Maine? I get no response that makes any sense.

After a year of this I am beginning to see the light. Could it be that this project really isn't good for Maine? And that it’s just really good for CMP, HQ, Avangrid, Iberdrola and a few selected individuals?

Richard W. Aishton

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8 Responses »

  1. Richard's questions are being asked across the state by a majority of Mainers who oppose the CMP corridor. There is no pro-NECEC grassroots group - just ours - join us to Say NO to NECEC (on Facebook). Reach out to your state leaders today and ask them to vote YES on LD1363 and LD1383 to give Mainers what they desperately want and deserve - to have local permitting control in municipalities on a for-profit large-scale utility project like this one!

  2. I agree with Richard. I attended that Farmington meeting, and then subsequently attended CMP's informational meetings in The Forks, Jackman, Lewiston, Skowhegan, and another Forks one. At each of these meetings I witnessed Thorne Dickinson answer the same questions differently to the different townspeople. In other words, his story changed depending on what the thought the citizen wanted to hear. He danced around questions, left many unanswered. I also heard him say that there WOULD be lights on the towers on Coburn Mountain, only to hear their lawyer claim at the hearings at UMaine Farmington in April that it had never been said there would be lights on the towers and that the concerned citizens were making stuff up. From that first meeting in Farmington, we started digging and finding out more and more info that clearly shows those paying attention what this project has always been and remains about: Profits. It's not about cleaner air, it's not about newer, smarter technology in energy transmission. It takes a zig zagged approach not because they are looking for the route with the 'least amount of environmental impact', as CMP claims, but because they have future development plans along that route. This is why they don't want to use any other options, such as burying along Rt. 201. CMP has shareholders to make money for. Maine is not important to them, just the money they can make using us. Our lawmakers need to protect what Maine has. There is not much of this left and it's value is far beyond a few million dollars of tax revenue.

  3. I too agree with Richard. I've been to a lot of meetings, done as much research as I can and and come to the conclusion that this is all about the fleecing of Maine. Exploitation of our natural resources for foreign profit and false premises. With all the money CMP it's currently spending on their front groups like Western mountains and rivers , Good jobs for Maine,etc., all the while remaining unreliable in their billing and service should be enough to convince people this is a bad deal for Maine now, and s horrible day for our future.

  4. It is also worth noting that those jobs- be they 3500 or 1600- are in no way guaranteed to be for Mainers. CMP has reluctantly made that clear- they will bid out the work, which may mean that out of state companies get the contract and bring in out of state employees. Most of the jobs are short term, also. Even if the beauty of Maine lures those out of state contractors to consider buying homes and settling here, they won't have any kind of long term job lined up once this project is up and running.

  5. It’s also worth noting that CMP/AVANGRID, Hydro-Quebec, certain politicians, and interests groups are looking at the NECEC as a money making benefits package that is somehow going to better the lot of humanity. Or so they say.

    Last l knew, one didn’t serve humanity to make a profit or too better oneself and claim it is for the good of all.

    The NECEC is a for profit project that is being promoted as the answer for global warming and its coming wrapped in estimated dollars. Good luck with that...

    Citizens vote anyone?

  6. What does Franklin county get out of people who pay their property taxes in Portland, does Franklin county get a bump in property taxes if somebody in Ellsworth builds a 2 story 2 car garage? I'm guessing no. So then why does it make sense to people that ALL of Maine should benefit from the property taxes that CMP is going to pay to Franklin and Somerset counties? And union and out of state companies have to hire non union, local labor, that is Maine law. And the line is not going to be built overnight. And which makes more sense, a couple sandwiches to get you by or waiting around for a feast that may never come. Leftists want people to sit around and wait for a feast that may never come rather than take the couple sandwiches. That's why people today feel like they never get anywhere, they spend too much time waiting for the feast. I'd work a different job every month if that's what it took to get my bills paid. Some work now is better than no work now.

  7. HB - I have been waiting for you to respond because it's usually somewhat controversial and interesting. However, this time it appears you have gone a bit obtuse on us. I am not certain, but it appears that you have missed the forest for the trees in the letter above and in many of the comments. You are smart enough to see the real message in what was written above so, I am not sure whether you simply felt compelled to write something or that you are getting tired of seeing the depth and breadth of this cmp rabbit hole and just scribbled something.

  8. Richard there are so many reasons this is bad for Maine it is difficult to choose a favorite. I do keep coming back to the fact that this will start the process of industrializing a beautiful section of Maine. Rare and beautiful that is. And in 100 years we will have sold our souls down the road for a completely obsolete and unnecessary foreign profit project. it is hard to ignore though, the vision of a football field wide swarth being bulldozed over all those trout streams and vernal pools.

    Interested, on the job front many Maine jobs will be lost as well if this project goes through. Loggers chipping for biomass, those biomass energy suppliers and renewables like solar will be repressed by congestion in the system.

    So, some number of temporary construction jobs, filled by some % of Mainers, offset by the job loses in logging/chipping and biomass and in an economy that can't find enough people to fill positions. In other words, those temporary construction workers would have plenty of work anyway. The ones making cake are the out of state tech pros, HydroQuebec and CMP/Anvangrid/Iberdola. The losers are the Maine people of today and the huge losers are the Maine people of the future.