Bringing Canadian power to New England would bring good jobs to Maine and reduce greenhouse-gas emissions in the region.
BY LANCE HARVELL
A recent commentary by Rep. Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham, was another attempt to win votes in November by misrepresenting the benefits of Central Maine Power’s proposal to bring new Canadian hydropower into the New England market. While it may be good politics for Berry to run on his opposition to the project, it would be bad for Maine if CMP’s plan falls victim to his narrow aims.
CMP’s New England Clean Energy Connect project is an opportunity for the state of Maine. The economic and environmental benefits are simply too good to pass up.
Let’s start with the economic impact. A recent study by Maine’s Department of Labor predicts a net gain of fewer than 100 jobs between 2016 and 2026. Do the math. That’s 10 jobs a year for 10 years, and jobs in construction are actually projected to decline!
NECEC will support an estimated average of 1,700 jobs per year over the next five years. When the NECEC construction workforce is at its peak, the project will support 3,500 jobs. Rep. Berry dismisses these as “temporary jobs.” That’s a slap in the face to anyone with a career in the building trades, especially here in western Maine where it’s tough enough to make a living.
But the economic benefits don’t stop there. Maine communities along the route of NECEC will benefit from $18 million in tax revenues annually. In many of these towns, even small increases in the property-tax rate are hotly debated, but NECEC could reduce the tax rate by double digits in many communities. How that windfall is used is then left up to the towns to decide. Maybe a new fire station or police station is a priority. Does an elementary school need renovation? At least we would have the choice, thanks to NECEC.
According to an analysis by the Maine Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Southern Maine, the impacts of jobs and taxes, coupled with the potential for lower energy costs, could add nearly $1 billion to Maine’s economy within the next 10 years. That’s “billion” – with a “B”! We have good laws in place to make sure a project like NECEC won’t harm our communities or natural resources, so we shouldn’t turn our backs on real progress when an opportunity like this comes along.
NECEC isn’t just about the economy, it’s real progress for our environment, too. Rep. Berry says he sees “no clear … climate benefit to Maine people.” I respectfully disagree. We have always valued hydropower as a clean energy resource, and Hydro-Québec has enough power to supply New England and its other markets in Canada and the U.S. Tapping into their clean power supplies will reduce carbon emissions linked to our electricity use by nearly 265,000 metric tons annually. That’s the equivalent of taking more than 56,000 cars off the road every year for the next 20 years! That seems like a clear climate benefit to me.
Finally, Rep. Berry raises questions about whether CMP is capable of building a project like NECEC. Where was he from 2010 to 2015? CMP built a $1.4 billion project to strengthen Maine’s grid that went right through his hometown. That was a far larger, more complex undertaking, and CMP brought it in on time and under budget. No other utility in New England could match that achievement.
Maine should not turn its back on an almost $1 billion investment in our infrastructure that will bring jobs, lower property taxes, lower energy costs and cleaner air at no cost to Maine consumers. It’s an investment that could deliver clean energy for 60 or more years, and still it’s not good enough for people like Rep. Berry. Make your own minds up, but at least stick to the facts. I support NECEC because it’s good for Maine.