JAY — Panelists debated the benefits and downsides of a proposed $1 billion CMP transmission line through Western Maine on Thursday.

The forum on the New England Clean Energy Connect project drew about 60 people to Spruce Mountain Middle School.

The proposed line would run from the Canadian border through Western Maine to Lewiston where the hydropower electricity provided by Hydro-Quebec would connect to the New England power grid.

State Rep. Tina Riley, D-Jay, facilitates a public forum on the proposed CMP transmission line Thursday night at Spruce Mountain Middle School in Jay. Donna M. Perry/Sun Journal

NECEC is a 145-mile transmission line, including 53½ miles of new line, capable of providing up to 1,200 megawatts of electrical power. It would be a high-voltage, direct-current line.

The project was proposed in response to the Massachusetts Department of Energy Sources seeking long-term contracts for clean-energy projects.

CMP’s proposal was chosen by Massachusetts.

State Rep. Tina Riley, D-Jay, organized the forum. Three people in favor of the project and three people against it were panelists.

On the opposing side of the panel was former state Sen. Tom Saviello who was the environmental manager of the Androscoggin Mill in Jay for years; Susan Theberge, a resident of Jay; and Nick Bennett, a staff scientist for the Natural Resources Council of Maine.

Panel proponents of the power line were Thorn Dickinson, vice president for business development at Avangrid, parent company of CMP; state Rep. Chris Caiazzo, D-Scarborough; and Anthony Buxton, representative of Industrial Energy Consumers Group.

The line will go through 7.1 miles of existing transmission line in Jay, according to Terry Bergeron, chairman of the Jay Board of Selectpersons. The town stands to gain about $460,000 in tax revenue per year. Opponents say that revenue projection is overestimated and the revenue will decline over the years.

Forum attendees wrote 30 or more questions on cards and presented them to Riley to ask the panel. Each side had a chance to answer. Riley said she was disappointed that a representative of Hydro-Quebec previously approached her and told her to save a place at the panel table for the company but then backed out.

“We understood the purpose of this panel was to discuss issues relating mainly to the infrastructure project and therefore chose to decline,” Hydro-Quebec spokesperson Lynn St. Laurent wrote in an email Friday.

Jay residents will consider whether to support the project at a special town meeting at 6 p.m. Monday in the cafeteria at Spruce Mountain Middle School. A petition with 217 signatures of registered voters asking for a vote was presented to the Select Board.

A number of changes to the project have been made since it was initially introduced, Dickinson said. These include reduction of visual impacts by putting the lines under the Kennebec River in a remote area, modified tree trimming, pole heights, and management of pesticides on the new corridor to mitigate some of the effects that raised concerns.

The for-profit project is designed to meet Massachusetts’ renewable energy mandates, Theberge said.

“It was not designed with Maine people or with the Maine environment in mind,” she said.

The project is still in the state and federal permitting process.

The Maine Public Utilities Commission staff approved a key certificate for the project in April, which is under appeal by NextEra Energy Resources, according to the Portland Press Herald.

Among the points proponents made are:

• Providing clean, renewable energy to reduce reliance on fossil fuel energy;

• Reducing 3 million tons of carbon from the air annually;

• Providing a renewable, clean energy solution for three of four nuclear plants in New England, which will be retired within the next decade;

• Providing $15 million to expand broadband access in host communities;

• Providing lower, suppressed energy costs for Maine customers;

• Providing an estimated $18 million more in host community property taxes;

• Making a nearly $1 billion investment in Maine by 2027;

• Building a new transmission line through forests that are already heavily harvested by Maine’s lumber industry; and

• Creating 1,600-plus jobs during construction.

Points made by opponents:

• Cutting 53 miles of new transmission line through undeveloped forests in the north woods;

• Harming habitat for brook trout, deer wintering areas, other wildlife, wetlands and tourism economy;

• Not reducing climate-changing pollution, including greenhouse gas emissions;

• Making millions of dollars for CMP and Hydro-Quebec;

• Jeopardizing construction of new in-state renewable energy projects;

• Overestimating tax revenue to communities, jobs;

• Losing existing jobs in the logging, biomass, guiding industry;

• Creating less than 40 sustainable jobs; and

• Not fixing billing problems for Maine customers of CMP.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.