Does the Baker administration have another Northern Pass on its hands?
Northern Pass, of course, was the controversial power line project picked in January to draw hydroelectricity here from Canada. New Hampshire regulators quickly ended that. A backup plan — a 145-mile power line through western Maine — was chosen by utilities to take its place.
But Central Maine Power’s transmission line, New England Clean Energy Connect, also ran into interference. Opponents sounded the alarm again, ahead of a public meeting on the issue in Farmington, Maine, tonight. The Natural Resources Council of Maine hammered away, complaining about the dozens of miles of wilderness that would be affected. Two unlikely bedfellows — fossil fuel plant owners and renewable energy developers — have teamed up to raise concerns. While Governor Paul LePage is a fan, critics still hope they can stop the project at Maine’s public utilities commission.
Concerns about the viability of local power plants united the New England Power Generators Association with the Maine Renewable Energy Association. The two groups say local power plants of all kinds — natural gas, oil, wind — could be undermined by cheap electricity from Hydro-Quebec. Several of the renewable group’s members bid on the clean-energy contracts that Central Maine’s parent company, Avangrid, ended up winning. But the group’s leader, Jeremy Payne, says they are also concerned about the threat to existing plants.
An Avangrid spokesman says the company’s analysis shows it’s unlikely the project will cause any Maine generators to retire. Avangrid, he says, is also going to great lengths to minimize the environmental impacts. He says Avangrid still hopes to win state permits this year, and to start construction by the end of 2019.
After the bad call that was Northern Pass, Governor Charlie Baker’s energy advisers are probably hoping for that as well.