In order to comply with a law passed in 2016, Massachusetts must start to get more of its energy from renewable sources. But a plan get hydro-power from Canada is being met with resistance in Maine, where a new transmission line would have to built.
Protesters opposing the New England Clean Energy Connect project worry a proposed 145-mile transmission line, that would run from Quebec to Lewiston, Maine, would spoil a remote area dependent on outdoor tourism. The line would cut through a forested area and rural communities, crossing the Kennebec River.
"The most accessible wilderness experience on the east coast is being threatened by this project," Matt Wagener, a camp owner in The Forks, said Friday before a hearing in Augusta.
Maine regulators are beginning the permit review and listening to concerns from stakeholders.
The $950 million project has been awarded to Central Maine Power, Maine's largest electric company. CMP spokesman John Carroll said Maine ratepayers won't have to foot the bill but could see a financial benefit.
"This project will reduce the region's dependency on natural gas, and reduce energy prices all around New England," he said, adding that this is one way Maine can help the region combat climate change.
"This is probably one of the largest initiatives New England has ever taken to clean up its air with a single action," Carroll said, adding that the construction would support jobs in Western Maine, where unemployment is high.
Nick Bennett, a scientist with the Natural Resources Council of Maine, argued Friday that the project is a bad deal for both Maine and Massachusetts.
"The project is just a power cord," he said. "All Hydro Quebec and CMP are going to do is shift power that they're selling to New York, Ontario, and New Brunswick, and sell it to Massachusetts — who for some stupid reason is willing to pay more for it than those other places," he said. "I think Massachusetts ratepayers haven't woken up to this yet."
While critics accuse CMP of downplaying the environmental impacts of the construction, Carroll said the company has carefully planned a route to minimize disruption, utilizing as many existing corridors as possible.
If all the permits are approved in time, CMP hopes to break ground on the project in 2020 and complete it by 2022.