Maine, and particularly in my neck of the woods, has been consumed with the debate about whether CMP should build a huge transmission line through Western Maine. I know where I stand: I think Maine should say no to this corridor because it is a bad deal.

For those people who haven’t made up their minds yet, let me put the debate in some context. Consider the plot of a poem Robert Frost wrote in 1916 called “Christmas Trees.”

It is a story about a city slicker coming to a New England farm to buy Christmas trees. He offered the old farmer who owned the trees an outrageously low price of 3 cents per tree. As you can imagine, the slicker knew he could sell the trees in the city for a buck apiece — quite a healthy profit off the work of the old man.

Tom Saviello

I think you can see where this is going — beware of people from afar touting “good deals for Maine.” It is smart to be skeptical, and I sure am skeptical of the deal CMP and Hydro-Quebec are pushing.

In fact, we’ve seen during the past year that Frost could easily have written his poem about the CMP corridor. In that case, the city slickers are CMP and Hydro-Quebec. The old farmer is the residents of Maine.

Our new city slickers have offered Maine citizens a deal. The question is should we take it?

Here are the facts, though I would encourage people to take a look at many other sources of information about this huge and complex project.

Central Maine Power and Hydro-Quebec have offered a sum of $258 million to be allowed to build a power line through Maine, delivering electricity to Massachusetts. At first glance, that does sound like a lot of money (especially when compared to the $0 offer CMP initially tried to convince us with).

Well, it depends on your definition of a lot of money.

CMP will make a $60 million profit per year and HQ will make $10 billion in revenues over the course of 20 years. That’s a lot of money.

Putting their offer on a monthly basis, each Maine citizen would receive a whopping 38 cents per month. That’s NOT a lot of money. And, in exchange, CMP would make $5 million per month and HQ would make a little more than $41 million per month.

Outside of the financial discussion, Mainers should also consider the environmental impact of building the corridor. It is a huge project and Maine’s decision is going to have a lifetime effect on the state.

Let’s look a little deeper into the CMP deal on the table. One part of the settlement will include spending $15 million to locate electric vehicle chargers throughout Maine. It may surprise the deal-makers, but rural Maine does not have many electric cars.

The deal-makers may also not have considered the fact that electric cars lose efficiency as the temperature gets colder. Some car batteries see an efficiency drop of 40 percent when the temperature is 20 degrees F. The efficiency continues to go down as it gets colder.

I am not sure that this is much of a benefit for Maine. My understanding is that it gets pretty cold here, and it probably gets even colder when your electric car runs out of batteries up here in the mountains in the winter.

Speaking of cold, part of the deal is an expansion of heat pump use as a primary heating system. Guess what: heat pumps don’t work very well when it gets less than 32 degrees, and you would need an alternative heating system, perhaps a gas furnace, to stay warm in the winter. Who can afford two heating systems? Folks who have money.

I don’t mind electric vehicle and heat pump expansion in Maine, but let’s be clear about who benefits: wealthier people, not low income people. Western Maine, where the corridor would be built, isn’t Portland.

Back to the Christmas tree story. The old farmer knew that he was getting offered a terrible deal. He knew selling the trees for 3 cents each while the city slicker made over 300 percent profit off his work was a bad idea and was unfair.

So I think when Mainers take a look at the evidence, they will realize that the corridor is a bad deal, too. The CMP and HQ city slickers will make more than $400 million per month while Mainers will get .38 cents per month and some heat pumps and electric vehicle charging stations for the well-off among us.

That is pretty clearly a bad deal.

So, like the old farmer in Robert Frost’s poem … Mainers should say “no” to CMP’s corridor.

Tom Saviello, PhD., is a former state senator for Franklin County. He presently serves as a selectperson for the town of Wilton. He is a PUC intervener on the NECEC proposal.

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