Voting yes to reject the CMP corridor is not the environmentally friendly solution that you’ve been sold.
In 2018, Massachusetts passed a law to expand clean energy for the state. To achieve this, the state made an agreement with HydroQuebec to supply hydropower: this required crossing state boundaries, so an independent arrangement was made with Central Maine Power (CMP). The contract stipulated 145 miles of transmission lines through the Maine woods on land that is primarily owned by CMP. Only 50 miles would be new construction, and the rest on an existing transmission corridor owned by CMP. One mile of the corridor passes through public land, which has become the legal cause for rejecting the corridor despite a lease that was first established in 2014.
I understand the desire to protect our natural resources. I understand the pressure to preserve Maine’s pristine beauty, the nature that I too consider a familiar acquaintance. The shock value of the anti-corridor advertisements showing a clear-cut forest has not been lost on me.
But conservation is not enough. As temperatures rise, the climate is rapidly becoming unsuitable for life on earth. The last two decades have been the hottest on record. Extreme temperatures are responsible for five million deaths annually. The solution isn’t a mystery. Releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere warms the planet; moving towards renewable resources helps mitigate the effects of climate change.
The campaign to reject the clean energy corridor is funded largely by electricity providers who stand to lose billions in a switch to renewable energy sources. Nearly $13 million has been spent by these providers, including the Florida-based NextERA Energy Resources and the Texas-based Vistra Energy Corporation. Establishing clean energy sources in New England is a direct threat to the future of fossil fuels. The clean energy corridor gives the opportunity to move forward with renewable energy.
Voting yes to reject the corridor also negatively impacts the future of other energy projects. By passing question one, voters are changing the law to require a legislative supermajority for any project that crosses public lands. In the age of climate crisis, any clause that adds red tape to the development of clean energy is dangerous. In addition, only one mile of the corridor crosses public lands, begging the question of whether limiting the development of the corridor is worth protecting such a small tract of land. (The project and impact on the land has been assessed and approved by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection).
Opponents of the corridor argue that Maine is paying the cost for Massachusetts’ energy, that hydropower is not truly clean energy, and that the environmental destruction caused by the project’s development outweighs any benefits. However, these concerns are based on misinformation. The corridor is funded entirely by Massachusetts with subsidies from CMP that will boost the Maine economy—including expanded broadband access, investment and development in more clean energy projects, and the creation of permanent jobs. When it comes to the drawbacks of hydropower, it is worth noting that all energy—wind, solar, or otherwise—comes with a certain extent of environmental damage. Giving New England access to hydropower results in the reduction of over 3 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year.
As a Mainer (born and bred), my initial reaction was to reject the corridor. I’ve grown up here with a strong connection to the land and learned from an early age to protect our earth. This very upbringing is why I cannot in good conscience vote yes on question one. Protecting the earth goes beyond the preservation of land—to protect the earth is to make thoughtful choices about consumption and emissions, to consider the long-term implications of the energy we use. Voting no to continue development of the corridor is the responsible environmental decision and is the one that best protects the interests of Maine.
Robyn Walker-Spencer is a member of the Class of 2024.