Franklin Countys First News

Politics & Other Mistakes: The dealers behind the deal

Al Diamon

According to a 2018 news release, Western Mountains & Rivers Corp. is an environmental group focused on “conservation, outdoor recreation and economic development.”

Actually, WM&R is more like a wholly owned subsidiary of Central Maine Power.

That explains why Western Mountains is such an enthusiastic supporter of CMP’s proposal to build a 145-mile transmission line through western Maine to bring Canadian hydropower to Massachusetts.

WM&R was created in 2017. CMP paid for its incorporation papers. WM&R hired a lawyer to testify before the Public Utilities Commission and other regulatory bodies debating the power line. The electric utility paid for that, too. In all, CMP has given Western Mountains $250,000 and promises to provide an equal amount over the next five years.

That ain’t all.

WM&R was created by Larry Warren of New Portland, the founder of Maine Huts & Trails and the Longfellow Mountains Heritage Trails, a proposed walking path between Kingfield and Coburn Gore. These nonprofit projects stand to benefit from CMP’s project through land transfers and easements.

WM&R’s board of directors includes heavy hitters, such as Peter Mills, Gov. Janet Mills’ brother and the Maine Turnpike Authority’s executive director. Mills used to be a state senator representing the area the power line will cross. He also used to think such projects were a scam.

“If a new power line is built,” he wrote in a 2008 newspaper op-ed, “Maine’s power prices may simply float to match those of Boston. Even though the cost of the line will be spread among all New England users, Maine may get little credit for flooding the Northeast with fresh sources of green power.”

Oops.

Other WM&R board members include Heather Johnson, Gov. Mills’ economic and community development commissioner, and several owners of white-water rafting companies. But Warren is the force behind the nonprofit, and he’s unconcerned that being funded by CMP leaves WM&R with zero credibility. Asked if it was unfair to characterize his organization as a front for the power company, he said, “Absolutely. We got involved to protect the [Kennebec River] gorge.”

Sorta.

WM&R negotiated two options with CMP. The electric company could spend $20 million running the transmission lines under the scenic gorge, thereby preserving a major attraction for white-water rafters. In addition, the utility would donate $2 million to WM&R. Alternatively, CMP could string the unsightly lines above the gorge, while donating the entire $22 million to WM&R.

How would the group spend that money?

“We aren’t in a position to indicate what we’re going to do in the years ahead, because we don’t know if CMP is going to get a permit or not,” Warren said. “Any public conversations about how the money could be invested only increases the polarization in the Forks region.”

That could be a reference to animosity among the rafting companies in that area, who have assorted ideas on how to use that cash to diversify their businesses to make up for the dramatic decline in white-water customers over the last decade.

More likely it refers to a PUC document that suggested WM&R “may not be representative of the local community and may not allocate mitigation funds to the proper people.”

Peter Mills admitted that claim isn’t entirely baseless. “I think there was some sense when we started that Western Mountains would have become a broader coalition,” he said. “I was taken by surprise by the hostility.”

Because who wouldn’t want power lines running through their backyard?

No charge for emailing aldiamon@herniahill.net.

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40 Responses »

  1. Actually, WM&R is NOT more like a wholly owned subsidiary of Central Maine Power you you just like putting fuel on the fire to increase readership of your column.

    In reality you cannot prove any of your allegations.

  2. Al welcomes all to the blogoshpere of uncanny misinformation and groupthink mentality.

  3. In response to Richy, WMRC has been FULLY funded by CMP, and that was admitted under oath during the hearings in Farmington a couple of weeks ago. Started after Larry Warren met with CMP to discuss strategies on how to approach this, and his projects benefit heavily. Then the WMRC proceeded to 'negotiate on behalf of the area', without the area residents and tax payers having ANY idea of the creation of this corporation or that they were doing any 'negotiating' on our behalves. The people in this group are long time friends, and local business owner, played well by CMP and Larry. If you'd like to read the details of the agreement between CMP and the WMRC, feel free to find the MOU in the files section of the Say No to NECEC facebook group. This group was created by a grassroots effort to let people know the truth, what was happening right under our noses without a breath of it from the very people who could have thrown a lot of power and support to stop it. But those people all have interests that benefit financially, spelled out in the MOU, and some not spelled out in the MOU that have come later. EVERY one of those people. If you'd like to read it, go to: https://www.facebook.com/groups/279944929428517/files/
    Kim Lyman

  4. Well done Mr. Diamon.

    And Richy, looks to me like the fuel was poured into the gas can in 2017 by CMP. WM&R was bought and paid for by CMP. We all know this. This project is for profit and not only CMP’s profit. It’s just nice to see someone jot it down publicly. Call a spade a spade. It is what it is.....

    I’m a little surprised that Mr. Warren is unconcerned and doubly so that Mr. Mills didn’t see the hostility coming down the pike. Go “figure.”

    No Corridor.

  5. Wow Richy, have to admit that you really are not fooling anyone. WM&R is absolutely a front for cmp. And it's a dangerous one because cmp could 'sell' its land to wm&rc, which is a non-profit and take cmp out of taxable land, thereby increasing everyones' taxes in the area. Sure, cmp donated all of that money to an ngo that is 'independent'. How much did cmp pay you for your time? Let's keep things relatively factual when discussing 'the corridor'.

  6. Thank you, Kimberly, for the additional information. My hope was that Al would be longer on details contained in the MOU. For starters:

    * "Rafting Companies" refer to 2- Northern Outdoors (plus its affiliate Adventure Bound) and 3-Rivers. N/O has been for sale for 4+ years, and unable to close with new ownership. 3-Rivers only growing area of business includes it's hospitality and beer sales. Both companies share a common denominator- they run campgrounds on land leased from CMP/Avangrid.

    * Maine Hut's and Trails, founded by Mr. Warren, would receive substantial financial benefits if NECEC receives permits and completes the project. Can Mr. Warren release his lobbying efforts, as a founder of WMRC, he engaged in to 'save' the Kennebec gorge?

    * Perhaps the hostility toward the group originates from failing to seek the input of other stakeholders before carving out benefits to the better connected members of the Forks recreational community.

    It seems that WMRC is better suited to register as a political action committee (PAC). Given the Conservation Law Foundation's cognitive dissonance on the issue, I fail to see any environmental advocacy by any group associated with NECEC. If we're looking for environmental leadership from Northern Outdoors (actively supported Big A dam on the Penobscot in the 1980's, in exchange for land and river access) or Larry Warren, we are setting ourselves up for disappointment.

  7. It's like "Chinatown" , except Western Maine instead of LA, electricity instead of water, Mills (Janet and Peter) instead of Mulwrays (Evelyn (Faye Dunaway) and Hollis), and Al instead of JJ Gittes (Jack Nicholson)

  8. All these past years while people trusted their elected representatives and their power company....They were rotting with corruption right under our nose....Let's Drain The Swamp right here in Maine !!! IT IS TIME TO PUSH BACK HARD STARTING NOW !

  9. WMM&R is nothing more than a CMP shell company. Formed 2 years ago in secret and still does not have a website or any form of helping tourism

  10. Maine is and will always be a better place to be.
    Mainers are and will always be the finest people to be around.
    Put the stupid line thru,,
    You still gotta be "you'...
    Silly boys.
    We're good here.

  11. I remember well writing about the Big A Dam back in the early or mid 1980s. Wayne Hockmeyer and Northern Outdoors split from other rafters, environmental groups and conservationists to sign a self-interested aide seals guaranteeing access for regular water releases. It was the first instance I can recall of industrial tourism in Maine openly advocating for self-interest over the environment they trade upon. If true as reported, this is a very bad look for Maine Huts & Trails.

  12. I appreciate all the conversation about the WMRL. I am more concerned about the connection to our Governor. Her brother and her commissioner of DECD. Really! There looks like a bit of conflict of interest to me. This is almost as bad as the Mahoney brothers (CLF and CMP) conflict. Sad…

  13. This highly unethical behavior is symbolic of every move CMP has made in its quest to get rich exploiting Maine. Somehow, the rich with power directors of did not think the public would become educated on the conflict. Now, as CMP gets more desperate, prepare for a giant, disingenuous PR push that will attempt to discredit people like me and most Mainers, saying we are pro pollution and funded by dark money. Nothing grassroots about CMP, everything grassroots about our opposition notonecec, yet they will make their claims. I believe most people desire an honest, conflict free process. CMP and WMR is the epitome of the opposite of that. As Kim says above, join our no to necec Facebook page to learn more about the project and join our active, grassroots resistance. I am dark money. (according to CMP)

  14. Ed Carroll, thanks for filling in some of the details on Big A.

    Maine Huts and Trails state they have no involvement, and that Larry Warren and Russell Waters negotiated the perks for MHT without the boards knowledge. If that is accepted at face value, there is an implied support of NECEC by accepting the benefits outlined in the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between CMP and WMRC. I have asked MHT to address the issue directly with membership in order to clarify their position relative to the benefits they have accepted; they position Larry Warren as a rogue free agent, yet are unwilling to sever ties or require board approval for becoming a party to the MOU. In the best light, that's very weak board governance- in the worst, it's disingenuous. http://mediad.publicbroadcasting.net/p/mpbn/files/201806/memorandum_of_understanding__may_30_2c_2018_final___p1522306x9f873_.pdf

    Section 4 a (ii) of the MOU details benefits to Maine Huts and Trails (even naming them, but leaving out 'Maine'), to include the release of the Flagstaff Hut lease, and land available along the Kennebec and Indian Pond (possible future hut locations). Section 4 c details 3 charitable trustee organizations- 1 each named by WMRC and CMP, and a third named jointly. There is nothing preventing WMRC from releasing the identity of the 3 trustees.

  15. Thanks Al, This is the epitome of the worst of how "business is done" in this country. It is the reason why the grassroots efforts fighting this are bi-partisan. They have had years of secretly buying land, putting people into influential boards, committees and institutions, creating the non-profit WM&R and essentially setting everything up just the way they wanted before the dreaded public starts getting wind of it. If you are wondering what you can do, at least let your state representative and senator and governor know you are against this needless raping of our North Woods. And Peter Mills "was taken by surprise by the hostility" ???

  16. Ya know,,, this MHT thingy..

    I've stomped every inch of that ground up and down the Bigelow Range for many many years alone, with my kids and now grand kids.
    What a treasure that area really is.

    It's no better because of the Huts.
    It just brings in a different crowd.

  17. Wish other newspapers would pick this info up...Lots of people need to see and read the truth.
    NO TO THE CORRIDOR!

  18. The more I learn, the stupider I get.

  19. Still don't get why this is such a big deal to some folks. Thers's 160,000 miles of transmission lines in the US (https://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/energy/power.htm) and we're talking about 40 miles of new corridor. That's a .00025 increase. And that's a reason to forego tax and rate benefits for us locals?

    Come on people, wake up.

  20. With 160,000 miles of transmission lines in the U.S. you would think Mass could find power someplace else. Leave Maine alone. If they want to help fight “climate change “ stop all flights world wide. With all the technology people don’t need to fly for conferences nor vacation in some far away place.

  21. FTown Bryan
    Get your facts straight and speak for yourself! If you were an abutting property and either looking at this mess or having your property taken be eminent domain you would be singing another tune. No one will see any tax relief either! 53 miles and Jersey pike wide threw countless habitats should send a red flag if you knew anything about it! No Corridor period! Don’t let someone else dictate what to do with our land!

  22. And when we send in our monthly electric payment are we paying towards all those expensive TV ads that have been running trying to convince Mainers to support the CMP corridor project?

    Cutting a permanent clear-cut swath through a green forested area is no way to build a "green energy' anything. Somehow we justify that illogical thinking. And what route will they take when CT and RI and etc. south of here want to tap into Quebec Hydro? This line could provide a legal precedent. One bill that helps give some control over such projects to the towns is LD 1383 An Act To Amend Maine's Municipal Land Use and Eminent Domain Laws Regarding Transmission and Distribution Utilities. Let your State representatives know they should support this bill.

  23. FTown Byran,

    We're talking around 53 miles of new line and the widening of the existing Corridor. This transmission line is going to cause a big impact on multiple fronts.

    As for your tax and rate benefits. Please be advised that the figures offered by CMP are merely estimates and subject to change. They've done it before, and they can darn sure do it again. That's big business and all they care about is the bottom line. I see no guaranteed tax relief in the amount specified by those offering it. I do however, see the amount of money that CMP has already given to WMRC. And while we're on that subject, maybe Mr. Mills would be good enough to resign his position on the board considering it could be construed as a conflict of interest.

    And FTown Byran, we've already woken up, much to the chagrin of CMP and their allies. We're a grassroots movement of thousands of like minded people that want this transmission project stopped.

    This isn't a done deal and we're in it for the long haul......

  24. Thanks again Terry. @ FTown Byran, May be YOU don't have to look at it but we will have to see it EVERY day and most likely will be able to hear it too seeing that this crap(if it goes in) will be less that 1,000 feet from our home. NO way on the corridor!!

  25. Any valid environmental group in this day and age has their own website, twitter account, email addresses, phone numbers etc. The so called WMRC has NONE OF THESE. One has to go through NECEC or other sources to communicate with them? Thats all the info I need to know they are not a valid "environmental group". They are a front from CMP, NECEC, etc, Very obvious. . .

  26. More talking points....... The whole"jersey turnpike" this is getting old. Like the actively being cut woodland we are talking about, most of you have never seen the jersey turnpike either. As for abutters, you bought your land knowing the power lines were there and how wide cmp's property was. Should have thought about that. Again, it's not virgin forest, there is no use of Eminent domain and property taxes that CMP already pays are definitely going up. How the town's use that is up to them.

  27. @ Jim

    CMP has said it will use eminent domain if needed. Enough said.

  28. Wow Jim ..... speaking of talking points.... The land, for the first 53.5 miles is through land that is being harvested. But that is quite a bit different than a 53 mile long, 300 foot wide clear cut that will remain clear cut in perpetuity. So, your argument about an active forest is completely blown. The overall land to be clear cut for the corridor is approximately 3500 acres representing between 30,000-38,000 cords of wood. I mean, honestly? And the taxes about which you speak ....... like i trust cmp NOT to 'sell' its land to wm&rc that will immediately take the land out of the tax base because wm&rc is tax exempt. Eminent Domain has actually been approved 'just in case' ...... I, personally, don't like that idea, you? So, let's really discuss actual facts. The land in question over the first 53.5 miles is the largest un-fragmented forested tract of land in the US. Sure, there are logging roads, but many are winter roads and leave a very light footprint as opposed to a 300 foot wide scar treated with herbicides that will leach into NON-CMP land and do what herbicides really do - contaminate everything including trout breeding streams, critical wetlands and so on. So, unless cmp is paying you a bit more money then you really do need to drop cmp talking points and look at the REAL issues.

  29. I'm thinking that Jim, FTown Byran and Richy are really one person named Larry.

  30. Well Jim I would guess that I am one of those "abutters" .Yes we knew that the existing CMP lines where there, but couldn't see them or any of the homes on the Davis Rd. or the Mt. Blue Campus. But since Farmington Solar came in and clear cut all the land between Bailey Hill Rd. and the Davis Rd. we now have a full view of not only the entire Mt. Blue Campus with all of it's lights every night and all the homes on the Davis Rd. but in the last few years we can now see 9 of the wind turbines in East Dixfield and the red flashing lights on them at night. When I walk down to the garden now I see all 7 of the other wind turbines that are along Rt. 4 on the way to Jay. Now Jim tell me how was I to know about all of this projects before we bought our home. This Corridor will do the same for many more people that live close to where it's going. Not to mention the difference the of the wind and strength of it with no trees in that valley, now the wind gets ripping with the loss of all the trees that where cut down. Have a nice evening. no corridor !

  31. Carl,

    Let me guess. You were one of those people who woke up on a cool Wednesday morning in November 2016 and the first thing out of your mouth was "I can't BELIEVE he won. I don't know a single person who voted for him."

    The fact that you don't know anyone who is for the corridor is a reflection on YOU, not the people you keep shouting down.

    There are tax and rate benefits for us in this project, not to mention all the other handouts to non profits that they are offering. If you want to deny that, fine. We disagree.

  32. @ Ftown Bryan,

    Handouts? At what cost? As one smart man said in Starks, “ it’s not shameful to be poor.”

    That non profit was bought and paid for. I don’t deny it. They may....,

    As for the political ramifications. We’re watching.

    No Corridor.

  33. It doesn’t matter what side of the aisle people are on this is bad for Maine. I didn’t wake up in November whining about who got elected. Im just glad we don’t have that evil woman for President. Ack to the story that matters, this will not drop ratesfor anyone. As Eddie has typed slowly “we all get power from the same grid”. How can anyone actually believe that only Mass will be paying for the cost of construction. Everyone’s delivery rates have climbed over the years and this will not be any different. As car as taxes go don’t hold your breath you might turn blue.

  34. Corridor be damned. Burn more coal and diesel. and let the soot and ride in on the air.

  35. Jeffrey,,, get an education.

  36. NECEC is a bad deal for Maine. All these insider shenanigans and the expensive PR campaign they are promoting are unethical and disingenuous. Meanwhile they mudslinging like only paid professionals can. #iamdarkmoney
    No Corridor!

  37. F-town Bryan-

    Just because you don't understand the passion some people have for that region on Maine does not mean it isn't real. We like brook trout and unobstructed mountain views, and think this is good stewardship for Maine long term. You see, when its all gone, chip by chip, we can never get it back. Not that you care, but we do.

    All that is needed is to get power to the New England grid, right? Vermont is already permitted and Massachusetts could bring it right through the Berkshires. There were 44 other alternative plans, Mass chose the cheapest date and it has nothing to do with the environment. it has 100% to do with PROFIT and greenwashing.

    If NECEC goes through, Maine will be exploited for foreign profit based on false premises and promises.

    PS: You are correct, we all know someone in favor of the corridor. You, and a few conflicted or confused souls. But an absolute indisputable significant minority.

  38. I am amazed at all the newly christened environmentalists whining about clear cuts, loss of view lines,etc.; when even more draconic effects were perpetrated by foreign wind farmers.....sub alpine wilderness 'raped', transmission line corridors that were true clear cuts and not just following logging roads, access roads with 10% grades that opened up mountains to vacation home development....which reminds me of the regions around Sugarloaf and Sunday River; once wildness and now subdivisions.

    You want respect, then maintain your integrity by opposing all alt. energy projects which destroy mature forest and its enormous capacity to convert CO2 into oxygen and stored carbon.

  39. Bay Watcher, how do you infer that we are newly christened environmentalists and in favor of wind? Industrial wind is another subsidized scam and most i know opposed to the corridor are also opposed to industrial, subsidized wind. I was part of a group that fought to keep wind off the highland mountains in Lexington successfully.

  40. Just drive the airline,,,,
    Those ugly wind turbines are so out of place.

    I can only wonder where the funding will come from to remove them when they no longer function???
    I mean,,,,, they won't just sure there and rust,,,,right??
    Think about it folks.

    Let's stop this useless crap NOW.
    ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.

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