Maine and the Delicate Sustainabile Developmental Situation



Twenty years ago the primeval forests of Maine were endangered by real estate investors aiming for short-term wins. Back then huge swaths of northern forest land went up for sale when International Paper decided to divest itself of over 185,000 acres along the St. John River. Thankfully, the Nature Conservancy stepped in making a bold move to preserve some of America’s most valuable forests. Their integrated plan cemented conservation, recreation, and economics into something sustainable. Today, Maine forests are once again in danger.

Courtesy Natural Resources Council of Maine
Natural Resources Council of Maine

Central Maine Power is about to destroy a legacy that cannot be replaced. Maine, which is almost 90% forested, is not just a woodsy vacation wonderland, it’s a safe haven for hundreds of animal species and inestimable worth for a world in the battle to balance carbon and climate change. A $950 million dollar power corridor project connecting Canada hydropower to Massechussets in the works will forever destroy millions of acres of Maine forests. The CMP project is a pure for-profit venture that will fill CMP coffers to the tune of $60 million a year. It is a scheme unlike the NECPL underground project in Vermont, a clear-cut solution to power transmission that is an “easy” and profitable solution. The project highlights brilliantly the way today’s leadership focuses on short-term profit, to leave a real value wasted. Maine’s new administration must consider the long-term and the famous forests that represent the soul of the people there.

We must focus on the larger picture. This year the Gulf of Maine experienced its third-warmest year on record. Surface temperatures in 2018 are running 2.8 degrees Fahrenheit above normal. Scientists at Acadia National Park are already studying how to grow trees in Maine that will withstand climate change. Yes, you read that correctly. Let me quote for you a paragraph from a recent Sierra Club report that talks about the fate of Maine’s dense forests of red spruce, balsam fir, and paper birch trees:

“…according to multiple projections on the likely impacts of climate change here, many of these trees could dwindle or die off in a matter of decades, leaving the park vulnerable to invasive weeds and bereft of important species that provide habitat to wildlife.”

During Maine Governor Paul LePage’s tenure, he was a staunch supporter of big energy and like President Trump, he’s determined to repeal any law or regulation that stands in the way of big business. Like Trump, he has stated that he is not convinced human activity has anything to do with global warming. In the eyes of many Maine citizens, he was the worst possible person to govern a state so wholly dependent on pristine environment. LePage is not just skeptical of global warming, he has actually told his constituents we should look at the trend more “positively” to take advantage of the effects. This is, in part, how the new Governor Janet Mills won the office in November. Conservationists hope the new governor will be sympathetic to the cause of protecting Maine’s natural heritage.

Maine (NECEC) proposed by Central Maine Power (CMP) and Hydro-Quebec
Maine (NECEC) proposed by Central Maine Power (CMP) and Hydro-Quebec

At the local level, communities like the town of Jackman has joined a growing number of places and organizations that oppose the proposed Central Maine Power (CMP) transmission line. And this is where the real argument against further damage to Maine’s lands begins. The long-term, for developers and even big business, will depend on preserving what is most valuable about Maine – the forests that border nearly every subdivision or luxurious lake front lodge. CMP cutting a wide swath through the center of the state, it’s going to lessen this value, but it will also set a precedent. Dylan Voorhees, climate and clean energy director with the Natural Resources Council of Maine had this to say about the CMP corredor recently:

“This isn’t just about one town or another town. It’s really about impacts on a broad region. This is an unfragmented piece of forestland, all across Somerset County and Franklin counties.”

As of this writing, Environment Maine, one of Maine’s premier organizations dedicated to protecting our state’s pristine outdoors, has joined Stop the Corridor and others in opposition. At the other end of the spectrum, CMP has pulled in the big local PR guns to throw up a smoke screen around the project. This story reports on business and political celebrities like Peter Vigue, president of Cianbro Corp. cheerleading the CMP corridor as actually creating more clean air. Meanwhile,
the activist group “Say No to NECEC” points out the project will cross under the “Kennebec River Gorge, cross the Appalachian Trail, traverse 263 wetlands, 115 streams, and disturb 12 inland waterfowl and wading bird habitat areas, as well as brook trout streams and deer wintering yards.”

Central Main Power is a subsidiary of Avangrid, which is a conglomeration of “clean energy” subsidiaries of Iberdrola group. In fairness to this group, the company is one of the biggest alternative energy efforts in the world, operating in 24 states in the U.S. They say the project will create at least $1 billion in jobs. However, it seems to me these companies need to think outside the box to get away from hydro-energy and its damaging aspects. As for Maine’s valued forests, lakes, and nature areas, more bad precedents are bound to harm overall property and touristic value. The solution, while more expensive in the short-term, is for CMP to emulate the NECPL underground project in Vermont, which would create even more jobs and opportunities and not harm Maine’s natural value.

This is my view.