Two Texas-based natural gas generators have joined the battle in Maine regarding Canadian hydropower, calling their PAC “Mainers for Local Power.” Their apparent goal is to keep electricity prices high with no reduction in CO2 and methane emissions by stopping the New England Clean Energy Connect project. Their funding has been applauded by certain “environmental” opponents.
The natural gas industry is funding the opposition to the NECEC while their leaky pipelines and fracking mines send huge methane emissions into the atmosphere. They produce 49 percent of New England’s power. The serious and devastating threat that these climate-warming emissions pose to forests, wildlife, fish and indigenous people are described in detail on the University of Maine Climate Change Institute website.
Instead of meeting the United Nation’s goal of a more than 7 percent reduction in fossil fuel use per year, our nation’s fossil fuel use rose by 4 percent in 2018. Currently solar and wind provide only 4 percent of New England power and we need both to grow dramatically. Large-scale solar and wind requires battery backup because these much needed energy sources have significant seasonal and daily variability. Canadian hydropower delivered to New England over the NECEC transmission line could be that battery.
Commenting on the NECEC, the Union of Concerned Scientists stated, “This plan to responsibly import Canadian hydropower will complement local and regional investments in energy efficiency measures, solar, offshore wind and storage. It will create new construction jobs, cut air pollution and reduce the Northeast’s overreliance on natural has and oil.”
The NECEC would reduce carbon emissions by over 3 million metric tons a year, according to the Maine Public Utilities Commission, and enable further reductions by facilitating more solar and wind in our energy mix. Lower cost, clean renewables can displace fossil fuels, but oil and gas companies will not give up their hold on energy production without a fight. They are pouring money into a mis-information campaign which claims that clean hydropower is bad under the assumption that “natural” gas is good.
Opponents don’t seem to question the methane-leaking fracked gas that they can’t see but vilify a 150-foot wide corridor that they can. Far more damage to streams, wetlands and forests is created by commercial logging in the region, described by project opponents as a pristine wilderness, than by the NECEC. And if you’re a hiker, consider how often views from summits include sections of heavily logged forest, cell towers, much-needed wind turbines and clear cut ski trails. Yet some opponents argue that a power line mostly through an existing corridor will remove carbon sequestering trees offsetting the emissions reduction of NECEC. This is one of many ridiculous claims from the opposition.
Climate change is a global problem that includes personal dimension. We will each have to change parts of our lifestyle and accept new features in the landscape such as solar farms and transmission lines. Otherwise sea levels will rise, oceans will continue to warm, severe weather events will escalate, Maine’s boreal forests and alpine zones will no longer exist and the northern hardwood forests will be heavily damaged.
As Maine Gov. Janet Mills stated in a recent letter to the U.S. House of Representatives’ Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, “As a coastal state with abundant natural resources and natural-resource-based industries, the prosperity of our people, communities and businesses depends on us taking proactive action.” Her much-needed goal to electrify transportation and heating may double the demand for clean electricity.
I hope opponents will open their minds to NECEC, which would be the largest clean energy project in New England history. We have a moral responsibility at the personal, corporate and government level to eliminate fossil fuel use and time is running out.
Tony Marple of Whitefield is a retired health care administrator.