By ROBBIE FEINBERG
A coalition of business and labor groups has come out in support of a controversial proposed 145-mile transmission line through Western Maine.
The group, calling itself Mainers for Clean Energy Jobs, includes the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, labor unions and the construction firm Cianbro. The group is receiving funding from the Maine Chamber of Commerce. The proposed line would deliver electricity from a Hydro Quebec dam system through Maine to customers in Canada.
Maine Chamber President Dana Connors says that the project would offer substantial benefits, including thousands of jobs through 2022 in Western Maine and increased broadband access.
"I believe this project represents an historic alignment of interest," Connors says. "And with it, creates an historic alignment of opportunity and benefit for our state."
However, several lawmakers, conservation organizations and recreation groups have come out against the project, saying that it could endanger forest ecosystems and threaten the state's natural tourism economy, with a still-unclear effect on greenhouse gas emissions. Lawmakers also worry the project could hurt Maine's solar and wind industries.
But the new coalition's director, Ben Dudley, says the CMP project would offer thousands of jobs to Maine residents over the next few years while still promoting renewable hydro-power.
"We've got to move," Dudley says. "There's room for solar. There's room for other renewables. And we've got to promote those, as well. That's not a reason not to do this project."
The state's Public Utilities Commission will hold its final public hearing on the transmission line Wednesday evening in Hallowell.