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Govenor Janet Mills’ Statement on CMP Transmission Line

Farmington Town Meeting

Monday, March 25, 2019

I am here as a citizen of Maine…and as a citizen of Farmington. As one who lives about a mile from the transmission line — where it is now and where it will be in the future.

When I ran for Governor, I promised I’d always be straight with you. In this as in other things, I intend to call it as I see it.

I certainly have no financial stake in this project one way or the other. But I have a stake, as you do, in the future of our planet and in the future of our state and our region.

When I took office in early January, I knew the transmission line was an issue I would have to deal with.

In the campaign I said I had questions and concerns about it. (I did not, as some have suggested, say I was opposed to it.).

So, I knew I had to dig into it further.

I asked one of the smartest people I know — someone with no stake in the outcome — to look into the project and report to me. That person was a former Chair of the Public Utilities Commission, Tom Welch.

He digested the material on file with the PUC and the DEP and the Massachusetts authorities and he brought me up to speed.

We talked about the PUC and about the work the DEP still will do to minimize the environmental impacts of the project before issuing any environmental permits.

The most important thing to me was the report filed by the London Economics Institute, retained by the nonpartisan staff at the PUC.

That report concluded, before any additional items were agreed to in the PUC proceeding, that the project would provide $346 Million in electricity market benefits to Maine in the first 15 years.

They also concluded that the project will bring environmental benefits to the region by reducing CO2 emissions by app. 3.6 million metric tons per year.

And so I authorized our Energy Office to sign onto a detailed stipulation that provides many benefits to western Maine, in addition to the market benefits to ratepayers and the carbon emission reductions the London Economics study found. That stipulation was joined in by the IBEW (electrical workers), as well as the Chamber of Commerce, the City of Lewiston, the Conservation Law Foundation, the Acadia Center, and many others.

On the question before you this evening, I’m here to simply tell you what I have learned and where I stand, as a citizen of this town.

I’m not asking you to vote for this because of the $436,183 in additional property tax dollars this project will bring to Farmington.

Or because of the $5 Million in scholarship monies for local students, or the $1 Million for scholarships to UMF, or the $5 Million in economic development funds for Franklin County communities.

I’m not asking you to vote…because of the much needed increase in broadband access to Franklin County, allowing us to engage in real economic development, in tele-health, tele-education and tele-commuting.

I’m not asking you to vote…because of certain ratepayer benefits over the next several decades — which, by the way, we stipulated may be ‘securitized’ or brought forward to present value and used wisely to weatherize homes now, not forty years from now..

I’m not asking you to vote…because of the thousands of heat pumps and similar efficient heating appliances we will be able to install — not for the wealthy but for middle and low income people — those in ranch houses in the country, in manufactured housing in parks and suburbs around the state..

I’m not asking to vote because of the electric vehicle charging stations this will bring and the ability of tourists to access the entire state, not just the sandy beaches and resorts in the south.

I’m not asking you to vote because this is a perfect solution, or because not all those who benefit from it are perfect companies, or because it is the best and biggest answer to our energy issues.
(I have no love of CMP, I don’t owe them anything and have never received anything from them… And no one is paying me anything to take sides and to speak my mind..)

I’m asking you to vote not for the slickest ads —paid for by dark money from still-anonymous sources, presumably the fossil fuel and other competitors who will lose market share from this project..

I ask you to put aside all the hype, the ads, the flyers, the misinformation, scare tactics and hyperbole.

I’m asking you to ignore all of that…and consider certain irrefutable facts —

— 1. Hydro-electric power is one of cleanest forms of electrical generation (other than new nuclear power plants).

— 2. This power is not coming from some hostile third world nation — It’s coming from Canada. — Canada which is party to the Paris Climate Accord (the United States is not). Canada, which is committed to reducing climate change and weaning themselves off of fossil fuels that emit dangerous greenhouse gases. They are under great pressure to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. We should respect that same mandate.

and —

— 3. That the existence of this new generation will bring down prices all over the region.

Now, let’s talk about what it looks like. Because that’s what those very expensive ads are using for scare tactics and that’s what some people seem concerned about.

We are not going to let them build another New Jersey Turnpike in western Maine. Not a chance. In fact, if you drove down Route 2 today you probably didn’t even notice the power line and transformer near Good Times Unlimited. That’s what they’re proposing to widen and put an extra wooden pole in the middle. (The materials on file with the PUC and the DEP show a single wooden pole with a single cross arm.)

It’s not the New Jersey Turnpike now, and it won’t be the New Jersey Turnpike then. In its widest part it’s not even half the width of that road.

To be clear, we’re not turning our backs on solar or offshore wind or other renewables, including biomass.

In fact, the stipulation requires an upgrade of the transmission lines south and east of here, to alleviate congestion on the lines and allow for more generation from alternative sources.

And to those who say we should focus solely on other renewables, I agree. Unfortunately, those alternatives are basically intermittent sources of electric generation and cannot provide enough electricity to avoid serious blackouts and brownouts.

To generate the 1,200 megawatts of electricity that this transmission line would provide to the region from solar alone, for instance, you’d have to clear 34,000 acres of land. And even then, you would not be able to rely on that power more than 14% of the time.

So, I believe, on balance, the transmission line project is worth pursuing, in good part because it will help us wean ourselves off fossil fuels.

But don’t take my word for it.

Listen to the Conservation Law Foundation.
Listen to the Acadia Center
Listen to environmentalists like Dick Barringer…and Dick Anderson…
Listen to the Union of Concerned Scientists, who said that this plan to import Canadian hydropower “will complement local and regional investments in energy efficiency measures, solar, offshore wind, and storage.”

Are there tradeoffs? Certainly. There are always tradeoffs.

But the fundamental question is, do we want to be pouring money down the drain, fattening the purses of Big Oil and Big Gas companies for the rest of our lives?

Think about that every time you turn up the thermostat in your home.

Think about that every time you hear of a business that is unable to locate here because of high electricity rates or lack of reliable Internet service or insufficient economic incentives.

Think about that every time you hear about an invasion of ticks in our woods and parks or when you hear another child gasping for breath because of asthma, or when you worry about how our fishermen are going to survive the warming, rising seas.

Think about that before you vote.

Thank you.

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