Authors: Lloyd Irland of Wayne is a professional forester and former Maine state economist, and Richard Anderson of Portland is a former Maine conservation commissioner.
The author of an April 1 letter to the Press Herald asserts, “Money isn’t everything. Like Gov. Baxter said about Baxter State Park, ‘May it forever be left in the natural wild state.’ ” To the untrained eye, then, Baxter State Park appears a “wilderness,” even as it is managed every day for its diverse values, and for the enjoyment of the tens of thousands of persons who visit it each year
Indeed, the entire 10 million-acre Unorganized Territory of Maine is largely a privately owned working forest, managed every day for its timber, recreational, wildlife, ecological, scenic and other values; and has been such for well more than a century. To this end, it is now crisscrossed by thousands of miles of public and woods roads, as well as by many miles of power lines that serve and accommodate Maine residents and visitors alike.
The three of us – including former Conservation Commissioner Richard Barringer of Portland – are deeply sympathetic to those who value and enjoy the Maine woods and oppose the New England Clean Energy Connect project; we believe their hearts are in the right place. We share with them their love of the woods and their concern for its future, based on our more than a combined century of working and traveling Maine’s deep woods and enjoying them on foot and snowshoes and by snowmobile, skis and canoe.
We believe that NECEC will bring many important and lasting benefits to all present and future citizens of Maine. To refer to the Maine woods as a “wilderness” is to misrepresent its reality as an actively managed working forest. And we find this to be just one of the many unfounded claims and myths offered by opponents to the project.
The writers of other Press Herald letters (and op-eds) have asserted there will be no reduction in carbon emissions to the atmosphere as a result of NECEC, and that the Maine Department of Environmental Protection should now be ordered by the Legislature to do yet another analysis.
But the Maine Public Utilities Commission last year paid fully $475,000 for an independent analysis of NECEC’s impact. In this analysis, London Economics International LLC estimated that NECEC will remove fully 3 million to 3.6 million metric tons of carbon from the New England atmosphere each year, equal to removing some 767,000 vehicles from its roadways, and 57,000 from Maine’s alone. (See Page 30 of “Independent Analysis of Electricity Market and Microeconomic Benefits of New England Clean Energy Connect Project,” available at bit.ly/2VCuRnN.)
These same critics also claim there is no surplus water at present behind Hydro-Quebec dams to generate new electricity for New England homeowners and customers and that Hydro-Quebec will have to divert hydropower from New York and Ontario to New England, replacing this with fossil fuel power.
The fact is that in 2018, because of inadequate markets, Hydro Quebec “spilled” over its dams enough water to produce about 10.4 terawatts of electricity, according to a Dec. 14 Boston Globe editorial – more than the entire amount it now offers Massachusetts to help combat climate change. New England Clean Energy Connect will carry 1,200 megawatts of new power from this spill, from upgrades at an existing dam and from a single new dam.
We believe the well-organized and dark money-funded campaign against NECEC sows fear and misrepresentations that are unworthy of Maine’s civic dialogue. It distracts public attention from what we need do to help the region adjust to new economic realities and grow; from the largest financial investment in western Maine beyond anything in recent times; from the impact that a negative New England Clean Energy Connect decision will have on the business climate across the region and state, and from our shared responsibilities as citizens of planet Earth.