Darryl Wood and Theresa York, both residents of Farmington, demonstrate in front of the post office on Main Street against the Central Maine Power electricity corridor that will pass through their town. Wood had posted to social media asking drivers to honk in support as they drove by. Many did, as well as giving the protesters the thumbs up. Credit: Lori Valigra

The United Steelworker’s Maine Labor Council voted to oppose Central Maine Power Co.’s proposed New England Clean Energy Connect hydropower transmission project at its June 6 meeting in Bangor.

“The council is concerned about the impact this proposal would have on jobs for our members. We are worried about our members who currently work in power generation and fear this project would jeopardize jobs in the emerging green energy economy,” Pat Carleton, president of the union’s Maine Labor Council, said in a statement Friday announcing the move.

The controversial $1 billion hydropower project, a joint project of CMP and Hydro-Quebec, would transmit power for 145 miles from the Canadian border through Maine. The project aims to bring renewable power to Massachusetts by 2022 so that state can meet its own clean energy standards.

Opponents have questioned whether Maine ratepayers would see monetary savings and said the project might overload existing power facilities in Maine.

That might prevent the development of new renewable generation in Maine, Tanya Bodell, executive director of Boston-based energy service company Energyst Advisors, wrote in a filing with the Maine Public Utilities Commission, which regulates utilities.

The project won a key endorsement from the PUC on April 11, and is currently under review by other regulators. The governor has endorsed the project, and on June 12 vetoed two bills that would have slowed progress for the project.

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers also endorsed the project in a package of benefits worth more than $200 million and that was approved by the PUC.

“These concerns were fully evaluated by the Maine Public Utilities Commission in the course of its 18-month review of the project,” said Thorn Dickinson, vice president of business development for Avangrid, CMP’s parent company. “Through that review, the PUC concluded that NECEC would actually benefit the development of renewable energy resources and do no harm to existing generators in Maine.”

Carleton said the hydropower line “will have a negative effect on the ability to build new solar and wind farms, costing Maine workers jobs.”

Emery Deabay, an officer with the Maine Labor Council, said the new line would stymie new solar projects and only create a large number of jobs for two years before significantly tapering off employment. CMP has said it will employ up to 1,600 people during the height of the project.

“We have 55 meagawatts of solar power in Maine at projects with 630 jobs,” Deabay said. “We could lose jobs over time if big projects are stymied.”

He also contended that CMP will not allow solar farms to tap into its line to sell energy to Massachusetts.

The 3,000 union members in Maine make the glass and steel that goes into solar projects, he said.

Carleton also alleged the project would reduce the amount of raw materials that would need to be manufactured to build green energy projects.

“The loss of jobs and skepticism of CMP’s claims that the line will provide ‘clean energy’ to New England lead the USW-MLC to oppose this project,” he said.

The USW Labor Council is made up of steelworkers who work for paper mills, a credit union, tank farms, heavy machinery sales and repair operation, a town, a casino and a power generation facility.

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Lori Valigra

Lori Valigra, senior reporter for economy and business, holds an M.S. in journalism from Boston University. She was a Knight journalism fellow at M.I.T. and has extensive international reporting experience...