Monday-Friday, 8:30 AM - 5 PM - Phone (207) 725-8797

Blog

wild-oats-bakery

Question 1- Full Stance from the SMMC Executive Team

October 26, 2021

Full Stance on Question 1 from SMMC Executive Team

 

**(Bolded sections are what is contained in our Summary Stance)**

The Southern Midcoast Maine Chamber’s Executive Committee, and staff have spent dozens of hours researching, discussing and questioning the merits of the arguments presented by Question 1 regarding the New England Clean Energy Corridor and whether Maine citizens should reject it.  We do not take positions reflexively, and we do not accept rationales and talking points until we have done our own evaluation.  Below is our full stance, with the myriad of issues brought up during the debate we felt we need to address as many of these concerns as we could.

Before we dive into our stance, it needs to be mentioned that this citizen’s initiative has been one of the most expensive, polarizing and frankly misleading campaigns in Maine’s history.  The inciteful rhetoric used and the intentional insinuations of untoward antics that these political action committees have used to try and deceive voters to manipulate their votes, is disgusting. What have we come to when political action groups think so little of our intellect that they choose to reduce major policy issues into a battle of which side can outrage their supporters more with inflammatory accusations?  This very complex issue deserved better, in our eyes, than to be reduced to lowest common denominator mudslinging as it has been by both sides.  We hope future referendums don’t devolve into similar rock fights and that we can go back to discussing the merits of these major issues without these unnecessary histrionics.  

The Executive Committee of the Southern Midcoast Maine Chamber has evaluated both sides of this issue.  

We have similarities with the proponents for the Yes on 1 side, in that we also love Maine’s natural resources, and enjoy hunting, fishing, hiking, biking, snowmobiling and protecting the land we call home.  It cannot be denied that a new power line will have an environmental impact- it simply will.  You cannot run a powerline, build a road, construct an apartment building, install a windmill, create a solar farm or drill more pipelines, without having an environmental impact on some piece of Maine land.  

We have similarities with the proponents of the No on 1 side, in that we see the need for major clean energy upgrades to the New England Power Grid to complement the other energy components of wind, solar, nuclear and natural gas that make up our energy mix and to drive down energy costs.  In addition to that, the NECEC project has already employed hundreds of Mainers and produced revenues for Maine businesses who are currently preparing the land that CMP already owns for the second line.  More jobs for Mainers and business revenues are things chambers of commerce will always support.   

After weighing each side of this issue, our SMMC Executive Committee believes that although both sides have considerable merit, that the benefits of the project outweigh the costs of the project and recommend, like the Governor’s office have, to support a position of No on 1.  

Here are several of the deciding reasons for this stance:

  • Numerous regulatory agencies and independent judges who are far more versed in the intricacies of this project than we could ever hope to be, have considered, evaluated and endorsed this project for its environmental merits.  That’s not to say other environmental experts don’t have opposing positions, but many of their concerns were evaluated and approval was still granted by these non-partisan regulatory agencies. We choose to believe in experts, and specifically the experts who have made it their life’s work to evaluate such proposals and we have entrusted them with this decision-making power for that career expertise.  Though some may disagree, clearly more experts approved the merits of this proposal, than did not


  • Likewise, this proposal was approved by the administrations of two governors and two presidential administrations who often don’t find common ground on many issues.  Their belief in this project, when they are opposed diametrically on so many other issues, spoke volumes to us

 

  • This clean energy project is the equivalent, in terms of greenhouse gas reductions, of removing 700,000 cars annually off New England roads (according to page 72 of the Public Utilities Commission Order Granting Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity and Approving Stipulation from May 3, 2019)

 

  • According to a July 2020 press release from the Governor’s office, Maine will be receiving a $258M incentive package.  Opponents claim this to be ‘pennies’ but that is not the case.  The $140M rate reduction negotiated is the largest rate reduction Hydro-Quebec has ever negotiated.  On top of that, $10M is being dedicated to broadband expansion, $10M to electronic vehicle chargers, $10M to heat pumps, and an additional $88M on top of that. 

 

  • In addition to that, CMP, which is already a leading taxpayer in most municipalities where they have poles and wires, will be increasing the valuation of their property in which 2/3 of this line will be built.  Dozens of municipalities will capture that additional tax revenue which they can invest in the roads, schools or in tax relief for their citizens in their communities, at an estimated total of $18M overall.  

 

  • The new segment of the line, about 53 miles from The Forks to the Canadian Border near Beattie Township, is running through the unorganized territories and is primarily commercial logging properties.  This new segment can be no wider than 54 feet (according to the Maine DEP permit issuance statement in May 2020), which is shorter than the distance from home to first base on a little league field.  Meaning, in areas where it is flat, most 11-year-olds can run the entire width of the new segment in under 8 seconds, and nearly any adult could walk it in under 15 seconds.  The new segment will be 54 feet wide, over 53 miles accounting for 964 acres of Maine forest, however this Project will permanently conserve 40,000 acres of Maine forest to offset this intrusion.  

 

  • The issue of retroactivity is unconvincing as it has been presented by some PACs, but this piece of it rings true to us: we have had numerous regulatory agency reviews, licensing hearings, public comment sessions and steps for this approval process over the past five years or so, and the NECEC went through each step of the process, including lawsuit challenges. In the end the project was approved by the numerous state and federal regulatory bodies that we empower to approve such matters.  To change the rules of the game, after the project has been approved and partially constructed, seems unfair, and if this were a separate clean energy project going through the same thing, we would feel that is unfair too, which is to say, this is unfair for any approved project.  If this was supposed to be part of the standard initial approval process, it should have been introduced in any of the five years prior to the approval of the project, and not after it was approved by non-partisan regulatory bodies. 

 

  • The corridor has two sets of opponents, strict environmentalists who are concerned about the environmental impacts on Maine’s woods, and those opponents raise valid concerns which must be heard and considered.  The other set of opponents are those who believe in Mainers for Local Power, a political action committee formed in 2019 by two Texas-based oil and gas companies, according to the legal disclosures they needed to file in order to form their PAC and confirmed by numerous reports from the Portland Press Herald and Bangor Daily News.  One can reasonably surmise this group is involving themselves in opposing this clean hydro project to protect their own profits, because if a new clean energy project gets plugged into the New England Energy Grid, they can’t charge as much for their product.  Thus, taking a fraction of their natural gas profits, to invest in defeating this project is a sound business decision for their company’s profits.  If they were being genuine about their participation, they would have called their PAC “Texas Natural Gas and Oil Companies Opposing The Maine Corridor”- but that wouldn’t get nearly the same support- so they use “Mainers for Local Power”, and masquerade like they are Mainers, when they most certainly are not.  

We hope in this stance that you fully understand we are not minimizing the environmental concerns- as it is undeniable that any infrastructure project will have an environmental impact and that weighed heavily on us.  Additionally, we understand some Mainers have a distrust of large companies, and CMP in particular, and in response all we can say is, that if you distrust CMP there is likely nothing we can say in this stance that will change your opinion.  Our chamber represents businesses large and small, and an investment like this, whether from a large business, or a conglomeration of small businesses, still needs to be considered for the tremendous impact it can have for our state and for our climate goals.  

The bottom line for us is this:   

Any major clean energy project will require new infrastructure and will have some impact on the existing environment.  It's hard to imagine any future proposal being less intrusive than this project which has 2/3s of it being built on their own land beside existing power lines, and the remaining 1/3 running through commercial logging lands. This new section of the line, being no wider than the length of a baseline on a little league field, runs through the unorganized territories. Meaning, we’re not rehoming people, running it through parks, through school yards or anywhere that many people live, while also permanently conserving 40,000 acres of Maine forest to offset the impact of the 964 acres of new land being used- a 40:1 ratio. 

Additionally, Maine gets $258M in incentives including $140M in discounted rate relief alone, while also each municipality along the project route getting the increased tax revenues of CMP building new poles and wires on their existing land.  Add to that the jobs the construction has created for Mainers, the secondary economic impacts of those working on the project grabbing lunches and hotel rooms to be near the project site, and the greenhouse gas reduction equivalent to taking 700,000 vehicles off the road, and our team can conclude that in our estimation the benefits outweigh the costs for this project.

For those reasons, our SMMC Executive Team is recommending a stance of No On 1 this November 2.

 

RSS Feed RSS Feed

Linkedin Facebook   8 Venture Ave. Brunswick, ME 04011
 
Linkedin Facebook