The Universal Notebook: What comes after Question 1?

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On Election Day, Maine voters overwhelmingly rejected the Central Maine Power/Hydro-Quebec corridor designed to take electricity from Canada to Massachusetts.

Now we just have to hope that foreign corporations and Maine political leaders will honor the will of the people.

Edgar Allen BeemMy guess is they won’t. Not without a fight.

The Question 1 referendum campaign, the most costly in Maine history at $100 million wasted, ultimately came down to the ruling class versus the people. The only community in southern Maine that voted no was Cape Elizabeth.

In voting yes – almost 60 percent to 40 percent in favor of stopping the New England Clean Energy Connect project – Maine voters rejected both Gov. Janet Mills and former Gov. Paul LePage, both of whom endorsed the unpopular power project. They rejected the two largest daily newspapers in the state, the Portland Press Herald and Bangor Daily News, both of which advocated voting no (as, alas, did the Portland Phoenix).

Voters also rejected the television and newspaper endorsements of former state officials, ignored the support of the business community, and, most importantly, were put off by the massive multi-million dollar media campaign of lies and distortions waged by CMP, Hydro-Quebec, Avangrid, and Iberdrola, the foreign powers behind NECEC.

My guess is that CMP would have fared better by not polluting the airways with propaganda. CMP and its allies spent almost $300 for every vote they got. What a waste of time, energy, and money; whoever ran that campaign should go into hiding.

Yes, Maine voters sided with NextEra Energy, the American company that funded most of the Yes on 1 campaign, but I believe Maine citizens already resented and distrusted CMP enough to defeat its power line. And the embarrassing distortions of the “No on 1” shills just made it even easier to vote yes.

CMP tried to portray NextEra as “big out-of-state oil and gas,” but NextEra is also the world’s largest generator of renewable energy from solar and wind. The idea that the CMP project was somehow going to combat climate change was unfounded. There was no evidence of that, nor that CMP has done anything except stand in the way of sustainable energy in Maine. 

Next? Endless legal battles as CMP and its foreign allies try to argue in court that the referendum was unconstitutional and environmental organizations try to force CMP to stop construction and start repairing the massive damage it has already done in the Maine woods.

No doubt CMP’s friends in Augusta will try to make it harder to ultimately stop a $1 billion project it never should have started. The future of some Maine politicians will be determined by whether they honor the will of the people or the greed of corporations.

Ultimately, a lot of voters simply voted against CMP. That suggests that Pine Tree Power, the public power company proposed to replace CMP, stands a good chance of passing if it manages to get on the ballot. I know I’ll vote for it. 

Pine Tree Power was actually passed by the Maine Legislature, but it was vetoed by Gov. Janet Mills. That’s enough of a reason for a lot of people not to vote for her again. Of course, Mills’ likely opponent is LePage, the two-term Bully of the Blaine House, also a big backer of corporate rule and the CMP corridor.

Maine voters have resoundingly rejected the ruling elite. Now we just have to figure out how best to get power to the people.

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.