FARMINGTON, Maine — (CLARIFICATION: An earlier version of this story said the NECEC will deliver electricity from Quebec to Massachusetts. It will actually deliver electricity to the New England grid.)
Dozens of Mainers attended Tuesday night’s public hearing at the University of Maine at Farmington to speak directly to the Department of Environmental Protection and the Land Use Planning Commission about the 147-mile transmission line Central Maine Power wants to build.
Tuesday was the first of two opportunities for the public to comment on the New England Clean Energy Connect project, which will deliver electricity from Quebec to the New England grid to be shared by New England states.
WHAT IS THE NEW ENGLAND CLEAN ENERGY CONNECT PROJECT?
According to the Land Use Planning Commission:
On September 27, 2017, Central Maine Power Company (CMP) submitted permit applications with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (MDEP) for construction of the New England Clean Energy Connect (NECEC), an electric transmission line from the border with Quebec in Beattie Township to a new converter station in Lewiston. The project also includes several upgrades to CMP’s existing electrical transmission network between Lewiston and Pownal, Windsor and Wiscasset and in Cumberland. Approximately 73 percent of the 147-mile transmission line will be built within CMP’s existing transmission corridor. The remainder of the line will be built in an undeveloped corridor owned by CMP through working forestland in western Somerset and Franklin counties. The NECEC project will be capable of delivering up to 1,200 megawatts of renewable energy to the New England power grid.
Many people who live, work, and play in the areas of western Maine near The Forks and other towns impacted by the construction of the power line attended Tuesday night’s meeting to voice their concerns about the disruption the project will cause to the mountains, rivers, and lakes in the area.
"If they put up those towers, people will turn away from those areas," said Theresa York, who lives in Farmington and enjoys hiking in the scenic western parts of Maine. "Vistas are going to be destroyed. I go hiking for the beautiful views."
York said others will likely feel the same.
"It breaks the magic," said Cliff Stevens, owner of Moxie Outdoor Adventures, a camping and rafting business in The Forks.
The project abuts his property and would be visible as people drive into an area with no cellphone or internet service.
"You feel like you’re in the wilderness," said Stevens about the current state of western Maine. "Even if the wires go under the [Kennebec] River, you’ll still see it."
During Tuesday's public comment, three major points came up in support of the project: clean, renewable energy to battle climate change, the creation of jobs, and the possibility of lower electricity rates.
Supporters of the project argued that the area where the new corridor would be built is already in a "working forest," where loggers work.
Opponents of the project worry about the disruption not only to scenic views and tourism, but also wildlife. They also voiced concerns about herbicides being used near the power lines.
DEP and LUPC staff have been hearing testimony and cross-examination all day from landowners, as well as groups with vested interests for or against the project.
The hearings continue through Friday, with another public comment period on Thursday night.
This story will be updated.