Globe Local

THE ARGUMENT

Should Massachusetts proceed with the deal to import hydro electricity from Quebec?

YES

Robert Rio

Reading resident; senior vice president of government affairs at Associated Industries of Massachusetts

Robert Rio

Massachusetts is addressing climate change by requiring the state to cut greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels by at least 80 percent by 2050.

The current list of options to help meet this goal in the electric sector — primarily wind, solar, and large hydropower — is small. So why, given this short list and the immediacy of the climate challenge, do some people want to eliminate hydropower from the mix?

Topping the hit list for these advocates is the New England Clean Energy Connect, the joint proposal between Hydro-Québec and Central Maine Power to bring clean hydropower from Quebec through Maine to serve Massachusetts consumers. When operational in 2022, the project will reduce our carbon emissions from the electric sector by about 17 percent — more than any other single clean-energy project in development.

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Among their objections, opponents question the need to go outside the region for renewable energy. But Canada is already one of our largest trading partners and has reliably delivered hydropower to the region for decades.

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The 4,000 member employers of Associated Industries of Massachusetts support an “all-of-the-above” approach to tackling climate change. All options, including solar and offshore wind, entail a mix of upstream and downstream positive and negative impacts — it just depends on what tips the scale for you.

One thing we do know: Eliminating hydropower will delay efforts to reduce greenhouse gases.

Hydropower is a readily available, proven technology that delivers large amounts of clean power on a steady basis — in contrast to intermittently produced solar and wind power.

Climate change is an immediate crisis. Delaying construction of one the fastest ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is counterproductive. Eliminating hydropower will require constructing thousands of additional megawatts of solar and offshore wind and we won’t make up the deficit for decades.

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Waiting for that perfect solution will not get us where we need to go in the time needed. It is time to stop arguing and to start working toward a long-term sustainable solution. We should take advantage of all available technologies. That course will result in quicker and more meaningful improvements to our climate change crisis.

NO

Deb Pasternak

Westborough resident; interim chapter director, Massachusetts Sierra Club

Deb Pasternak

It is imperative that we read between the lines to see the real truth, the real repercussions of Central Maine Power’s New England Clean Energy Connect project.

 It will not reduce greenhouse gas emissions as proponents claim. James M. Speyer, an expert energy and environmental consultant, testified before the Maine Department of Utilities last year that any reductions in carbon emissions resulting from the project “would be offset by higher emissions in other markets.”

Exporting our dollars to buy electricity is a bad economic choice. The difference in the costs of the electricity supply contracts proposed by wind energy producer Vineyard Wind and the hydro power contract is minimal (6.5 cents versus 5.9 cents per kilowatt hour) when compared with the difference in regional economic benefits. A study done for consumer energy advocacy groups last year estimated that if regional renewable generation were built to supply half of Massachusetts’ electric load by 2030, regional jobs would increase by about 30,000 in a decade. Massachusetts needs to generate power locally and benefit from the associated regional economic boom.

Environmental justice is blindsided. Quebec’s First Nation peoples have accused Hydro Quebec over the years of damaging rivers vital to its economy and cultural traditions. This is another decision by consumers from our area to procure energy on the backs of those without voice or power to protest.

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 The proposed transmission line will cross an unfragmented section of Maine forest, clear cutting a 54-mile stretch of right-of-way, according to Maine Audubon. Audubon said this will dissect forest ecosystems and waterways, negatively impacting 1,000 acres of wetlands and the life they support.

This project would provide Hydro-Québec a stable market for its excess electricity. But Massachusetts would see no economic benefit. With the falling costs of wind, solar, and storage, we can generate our own power, lowering greenhouse gas emissions and boosting our economy.

Why are we even considering this project, which will slow investment in New England, damage our environment, and bring minimal new jobs to the area? Let’s invest in proven sustainable energy projects, create jobs, and bolster our Massachusetts economy.

This is an informal poll, not a scientific survey. Please vote only once.

As told to Globe correspondent John Laidler. He can be reached at laidler@globe.com.