Let’s talk about the CMP Corridor

By Rep. Nicole Grohoski

You’ve probably noticed that the volume is turned way up on Ballot Question 1 as we hurtle toward Election Day on Nov. 2. Many constituents have approached me with questions like “I don’t like the CMP Corridor, but what about the climate?” or “Will other businesses be affected?” or “What does a ‘yes’ vote do?” There’s a lot of noise out there coming from the unprecedented spending by foreign corporations — so much, in fact, that it is hard for Maine people to hear each other. So, I’d like to speak to you, Mainer to Mainer, and share with you what I have learned as a member of the Legislature’s energy committee who has researched this subject for three years.

First, there is the damage to Maine’s environment to consider. The CMP Corridor will cut 53 miles of new, permanent transmission line corridor through undeveloped forests in western Maine, negatively affecting critical brook trout habitat, deer wintering areas and migration routes. The Upper Kennebec region is a truly unique place that will be scarred permanently by this project, all for the sake of Massachusetts’s policy goals.

Second, CMP cannot be trusted. Its corporate lobbyists have testified against renewable energy legislation for years, but now they claim to be climate leaders. They are not building this project to save the planet. They are building it for profit.

Third, hydropower facilities of this enormity do not generate clean energy, which is why the state of Maine is not legally allowed to use Hydro-Quebec’s power to meet its own clean energy requirements. Impacts of these massive impoundments in Quebec include:

  • Methane emissions with climate-warming effects similar to natural gas-fired electricity generators.
  • Destruction of boreal forest, wetland and peatland ecosystems, which store a significant amount of carbon.
  • Significant disruption of spring runoff, which affects nutrient concentrations and water temperatures, making both downstream freshwater and saltwater ecosystems uninhabitable for many species.

So what about Massachusetts’s laudable clean energy goals? The CMP Corridor is not the only option it has to respond to the climate crisis. The state received 46 bids from developers in response to its clean energy request for proposals; the CMP Corridor was likely selected as the cheapest option. Because Massachusetts is required by law to procure a certain amount of clean energy, it will do so. In fact, some of the other proposals include true clean energy generated in Maine, which would create local jobs, both in initial construction and maintenance. That would be better than flooding the New England electric grid with cheap hydropower that will crowd out Maine’s ability to participate in America’s fastest growing job sector.

You may be wondering if voting “Yes on 1” to reject the CMP Corridor will hurt other businesses through the retroactive provisions. Despite the ads you may have seen from CMP and Hydro-Quebec, the Legislature already has the authority to pass retroactive laws — that power would not be established by the pending ballot question.

So, what does the ballot question do? Three things:

  • It clarifies that building a new transmission line through public lands in the state of Maine is a substantial alteration of the land use and thus requires legislative approval to align with the existing requirements of the Maine Constitution in Article IX, Section 23. This portion of the ballot question applies retroactively to the date that the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands granted a lease to CMP to use public lands without legislative approval, which the courts later found to be illegal. Basically, it holds CMP accountable for its role in breaking the law.
  • It requires that certain high-impact transmission lines be approved by majority vote of the Legislature. It does not require approval for lines built for reliability purposes, meaning, to keep the lights on. This requirement is retroactive to the date the ballot question was publicly initiated by Maine citizens (Sept. 16, 2020) and applies only to projects that had not yet begun construction. Essentially, starting construction after that date, as CMP has done, does not pre-empt the right of citizens to vote on this subject and have the results matter.
  • It prohibits construction of such power lines in the Upper Kennebec region of Somerset and Franklin counties. The same retroactivity described in number 2 above applies.

Voting “yes” on Question 1 stops construction of the CMP Corridor. The negative impacts of this for-profit transmission line are straightforward and significant. Please join me in voting “yes” on Question 1 to reject the CMP Corridor.

Democratic Rep. Nicole Grohoski is serving her second term in the Maine House, representing the people of Ellsworth and Trenton. A member of the Joint Standing Committee on Energy, Utilities and Technology, she has been a vocal advocate for affordable, reliable and clean electricity.