The Universal Notebook: Question 1 hogwash and greenwash

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Contractor Larry Grondin is featured in one of the latest Mainers for Fair Laws television ads, telling viewers that his business could be shut down retroactively for something he did legally in the past if Question 1 passes and politicians don’t like him for some odd reason. 

Grondin calls Question 1, which seeks to stop the so-called “clean energy” transmission line being pushed by Central Maine Power Co. and Hydro Quebec, “unfair” and “dangerous.”

Edgar Allen BeemHe may believe his spiel, but not a single word Grondin says is true. Question 1 only applies to the New England Clean Energy Connect project. What’s unfair and dangerous is that foreign corporations are spending a small fortune to bamboozle Maine voters with a barrage of broadcast bilge.

The former state bureaucrats who endorse the CMP corridor in other ads and editorials may also believe NECEC will help reduce global warming, but they, too, are dead wrong. There are no environmental benefits to the CMP project. There are only financial benefits for CMP, its Spanish parent company Iberdrola, and its partner in crime, Hydro Quebec.

In fact, every argument offered in favor of the transmission project is just hydro-hogwash and CMP greenwash. 

The retroactivity boogeyman is a fiction cooked up from the language of Question 1 which was written to be specific to the CMP project. It references being retroactive to 2014 because that’s when former Gov. Paul LePage illegally gave CMP a lease to use public land, a court finding that should kill the project in and of itself. The 2020 retroactivity reference is because that’s when the referendum question was introduced. Too bad CMP and Hydro-Quebec wouldn’t wait to see what we, the people of Maine, thought of their scheme. 

The idea that Question 1 grants elected officials powers they don’t already have is completely bogus. The referendum would only apply to transmission projects that are 50 miles long or more and the standard of a two-thirds vote of the Legislature only applies if a project uses public lands. After the way LePage and Gov. Janet Mills abused their powers to enable the transmission project to happen, Question 1 actually serves to limit the power of politicians to misuse public lands. 

As to the handful of Question 1 quislings who have been touting the environmental benefits of the CMP project on TV and in the newspapers, they would have us believe that NECEC will reduce greenhouse gases and combat climate change.

Not true.

The CMP-Hydro Quebec plan does not generate any new clean energy whatsoever. None, zero, nada. Never mind that hydropower is not as clean as proponents like to say it is, the fact of the matter is that NECEC simply redirects existing power that has been going elsewhere and transmits it through Maine to the New England grid. No net gain in greenhouse gases.

And there is actually the potential that when Hydro Quebec seeks to replace the power they want to send to Boston, it may not generate it itself at all. It may just purchase electricity that is generated from fossil fuels.  

Bottom line: There is no new clean energy resulting from NECEC and passage will not result in retroactive laws or new powers for politicians. Supporters of the project are either suckers or slick operators.

Please vote Yes on 1 not because it will protect what is essentially an industrial forest anyway, but because it is a corporate scam that will only improve the bottom lines of foreign utilities and won’t improve the environment one iota.

Edgar Allen Beem has been writing The Universal Notebook weekly since 2003, first for The Forecaster and now for the Phoenix. He also writes the Art Seen feature.