Lepage made secret trip to Spain last week to meet with CMP's owners

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AUGUSTA — Before heading to Iceland for a session of the Arctic Circle Assembly last week, Gov. Paul LePage flew to Spain to meet with leaders of the company that owns Central Maine Power.

Julie Rabinowitz, LePage’s press secretary, confirmed Monday that LePage met with Iberdrola on Oct. 16.

Rabinowitz said LePage and Iberdrola executives “discussed ways to lower energy costs for Maine ratepayers, which has remained a priority for the governor since taking office.”

LePage’s office disclosed Thursday the governor was leading a delegation to the Arctic Circle Assembly in Reykjavik, Iceland. It made no mention of an earlier stop in Spain. It provided no information on who paid for the governor’s travel.

It is likely that at least part of the discussion between LePage and company leaders focused on a proposed 145-mile transmission line that CMP hopes to build through western Maine to serve the growing electrical needs of consumers in Massachusetts.

The $950 million New England Clean Energy Connect project would transport renewable energy from Quebec to Massachusetts via a high-voltage power line. 

Sandra Howard, who leads a group of more than 4,000 opponents of the project, said she hoped LePage “expressed to the executives of this foreign corporation in Spain that Mainers have serious concerns about this project.”

“No amount of mitigation can offset the lasting impacts to our natural resources and tourist economy this will cause,” she said Monday.

Howard said her group “would welcome the governor if he wanted to come and talk with us about the reasons for our opposition.”

“The fact that the governor had to go to Spain to talk about this project shows that they’re only interested in profits and not the people of Maine,” she said.

LePage has visited at least four foreign countries this year: Canada, Iceland, Spain and Montenegro.

He had planned to be part of a trade mission to the United Kingdom and Ireland last month, but had to skip it after experiencing what he called a “cardiac issue” in late August.

Iberdrola, a public company that focuses on electrical supply, is based in Bilbao, in the Basque area of northern Spain. It has subsidiaries around the world. 

In 2015, Iberdrola USA and UIL Holdings Corp. closed on the Spanish firm’s $3 billion purchase of the Connecticut parent company of several local energy firms, including CMP. The combined company operates under the name Avangrid Inc.

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Gov. Paul LePage flew to Spain last week to meet with leaders of the company that owns Central Maine Power. The governor is shown above speaking May 5 at the Republican Convention in Augusta. (Robert F. Bukaty/AP file photo)

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