Power line campaign is most expensive in Maine history

Oct 30, 2021, 5:07 AM | Updated: 12:23 pm

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Mainers have weighed in on a number of high-profile ballot questions — casinos, universal health care, marijuana legalization, assisted suicide, abortion and same-sex marriage, to name a few.

None of them come close to the level of spending as the battle over a 145-mile (233-kilometer) electricity transmission line.

More than $90 million from utilities has flowed into the fight over the $1 billion project funded by ratepayers in Massachusetts that supporters say would remove carbon from the environment and provide needed electricity.

The high-stakes campaign put environmental and conservation groups at odds, and pitted utilities backing the project against operators of fossil fuel-powered plants that stand to lose money.

Democratic Gov. Janet Mills, who supports the project, made a last-minute pitch this weekend for bold action against climate change. “We just can’t afford just to do nothing,” she said.

A ballot question on Tuesday will let Maine voters have their say.

The project has received all the necessary permits, and construction began 10 months ago. But a court ruling called into question a state lease for a 1-mile (1.6-kilometer) section. More litigation is expected regardless of the outcome of the vote.

Lewiston Mayor Mark Cayer said he doesn’t understand the opposition, noting that the new sections are being built in working forests that have been logged repeatedly over the years.

“In Maine and New England, the idea of change can sometimes raise emotions. A lot of people turn to ‘not in my backyard,'” he said.

Back when it was proposed, Central Maine Power thought it had a winner after New Hampshire’s Northern Pass project was spiked. Both projects aimed to bring plentiful renewable energy into the region courtesy of Hydro Quebec, which produces an excess of power from its dams.

In rejecting the 192-mile (309-kilometer) New Hampshire project, regulators questioned its promised benefits and worried about the impact it would have on rural communities. Their decision was upheld in court.

The Maine proposal for a transmission line mostly followed existing utility corridors. But a new section needed to be cut through 53 miles (85 kilometers) of woods to reach the border.

The project would supply up to 1,200 megawatts of Canadian hydropower to the New England power grid.

The arguments against the project are presented as black and white in ads that suggest the project benefits only Massachusetts, that it destroys pristine wilderness, that there was some sort of backroom deal. Even environmentalists don’t agree on the environmental benefit.

Supporters say big proposals are needed to combat climate change. They say the project would lower carbon emissions by 3.6 million metric tons, benefiting the region, not just Massachusetts.

CMP offered $258 million in Maine incentives that would boost the number of electric vehicle charging stations, subsidize heat pumps, improve rural high-speed internet and help low-income customers.

The city of Lewiston already received half of its $3 million increase in property taxes thanks to the project. All told, more than 20 communities will share $5.4 million in annual tax increases.

But that pales into comparison to the money pouring into the campaign.

Three opposing utilities that operate fossil fuel-powered plants in the region have contributed more than $27 million to stop the project. Central Maine Power, affiliated utilities and Quebec Hydro have donated more than $64 million in support of the project.

The spending is unprecedented for a referendum in Maine.

By comparison, about $9.2 million was spent on a battle over a York County casino in 2017 and nearly $8 million was spent on an effort to overturn the state’s same-sex marriage law in 2009, according to a report completed this summer for the Government Oversight Committee.

“In Maine, we’ve never had anything remotely like this for a referendum,” said Mark Brewer, political science professor at the University of Maine.

The amount of campaign money is unnerving to Anya Fetcher, director of Environment Maine, which opposes the project.

“At the end of the day, I wish that all of this money that was poured into the marketing and campaign could just go to clean energy solutions,” she said.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

President Joe Biden prepares to stand after signing into law S. 2938, the Bipartisan Safer Communit...
Associated Press

Highlights of bipartisan gun violence bill signed by Biden

Highlights of the bipartisan gun violence bill that President Joe Biden signed on Saturday: –Expanded background checks: State and local juvenile and mental health records of gun purchasers will be part of federal background checks for buyers age 18 to 20. Three-day maximum for gathering records will be lengthened to up to 10 days to […]
7 hours ago
President Joe Biden speaks before signing into law S. 2938, the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act gu...
Associated Press

Biden signs landmark gun measure, says ‘lives will be saved’

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden on Saturday signed the most sweeping gun violence bill in decades, a bipartisan compromise that seemed unimaginable until a recent series of mass shootings, including the massacre of 19 students and two teachers at a Texas elementary school. “Lives will be saved,” he said at the White House. Citing […]
7 hours ago
FILE - This Sept. 20, 2017, file photo shows a sign at the Disney store on the Champs Elysees Avenu...
Associated Press

Abortion ruling thrusts companies into divisive arena

The Supreme Court’s decision to end the nation’s constitutional protections for abortion has catapulted businesses of all types into the most divisive corner of politics. Some companies that stayed silent last month — when a draft opinion by Justice Samuel Alito was leaked to Politico — spoke up for the first time Friday, including The […]
7 hours ago
Associated Press

A roof over their head: Churches use tiny homes for homeless

Churches across the U.S. are tackling the big question of how to address homelessness in their communities with a small solution: tiny homes. On vacant plots near their parking lots and steepled sanctuaries, congregations are building everything from fixed and fully contained micro homes to petite, moveable cabins, and several other styles of small-footprint dwellings […]
7 hours ago
Flowers are left at the scene of a shooting in central Oslo, Saturday, June 25, 2022. Norwegian pol...
Associated Press

Gunman kills 2 during Oslo Pride festival; terror suspected

OSLO, Norway (AP) — A gunman opened fire in Oslo’s night-life district early Saturday, killing two people and leaving more than 20 wounded in what Norwegian security service called an “Islamist terror act” during the capital’s annual Pride festival. Investigators said the suspect, identified as a 42-year-old Norwegian citizen originally from Iran, was arrested after […]
7 hours ago
In this combo photo, protesters gather outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Friday, June 24, 20...
Associated Press

Two months of waiting, and finally a Supreme Court ruling

Follow the links in this story to recent AP coverage about abortion over the last three months. ___ And so the interminable wait after the leak of the decision overturning Roe v. Wade has come to an end — nearly two months in which abortion and all of its complexities have been have been hashed […]
7 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
CANVAS ANNUITY

Best retirement savings rates hit 4.30%

Maximize your retirement savings with guaranteed fixed rates up to 4.30%. Did you know there is a financial product that can give you great interest rates as you build your retirement savings and provide you with a paycheck for life once you retire? It might sound too good to be true but it is not; this product is called an annuity.
...
Day & Night Air

Tips to lower your energy bill in the Arizona heat

Does your summer electric bill make you groan? Are you looking for effective ways to reduce your bill?
...
Canvas Annuity

The secret to guaranteed retirement income

Annuities aren’t really a secret, but they are so misunderstood that they might as well be. Once you understand what an annuity is and how it can benefit you, you could decide this “secret” is the perfect supplement to your retirement plan.
Power line campaign is most expensive in Maine history