The Green Party is coming out strong against a proposed $1 billion project to bring Quebec hydropower through Maine to feed into the electricity grid that supplies New England.

Jill Stein, former presidential candidate for the Green Party. Submitted photo

Jill Stein, twice the party’s presidential candidate, said Wednesday that the Central Maine Power proposal would be “a bad deal for everyone” in Quebec, Maine and Massachusetts, which seeks to have the hydropower delivered to its residents as part of a long-term effort to switch to renewable energy sources.

Stein called it “a fake clean energy project” because it is neither clean nor green since it requires cutting a path through miles of forest. She said it is preposterous for Mainers to sacrifice woodlands that are needed to help deal with the world’s most pressing emergency, the climate crisis caused by rising levels of greenhouse gases.

“Downing all those trees is certainly not green,” Lisa Savage, the party’s U.S. Senate candidate in Maine, said. She said the huge dams in Quebec are destroying natural habitats that are increasingly crucial to the effort to slow the rise in temperatures globally.

The project’s roots lie in a 2016 agreement by Massachusetts, where Stein lives, to solicit proposals to deliver 9.45 terawatt hours of electricity from renewable sources such as hydropower, windmills and solar. The Bay State selected CMP’s New England Clean Energy Connect plan to deliver power produced by dams in Quebec via a new transmission line through western Maine that would connect to the existing grid at a new substation in Lewiston.

The whole project “kind of flew under the radar” in her home state, Stein said, so people didn’t realize how it would suppress “the development of real renewable energy” in the region.

Advocates for the project from CMP and NECEC insist it would provide hydropower that is far more green than the likely alternative for much of the electricity needed: natural gas. They say that it won’t crimp opportunities for other renewable projects that are going to be needed to deal with old plants closing in the coming years throughout New England.

Most of the 145-mile transmission line is slated to go within existing utility corridors, but a new swath would be cut through 53 miles of wilderness in western Maine to the Canadian border on land that CMP owns. It would also slice through about 20 miles of Canadian forest.

The project, endorsed by Gov. Janet Mills after the company gave Maine some concessions, already has a go-ahead from the state’s Public Utilities Commission. It still needs the backing of U.S. government agencies and Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection and Land Use Planning Commission.

For Lewiston, the project offers the potential of a major new substation that would provide as much as $8 million in additional property taxes annually.

For Stein, though, the project undercuts what she sees as the potential boon of an alternative view — a green new deal that would convert Maine’s defense industries into ones creating the equipment for a surge in renewable energy sources.

“This could be a jobs bonanza,” she said.

Stein and Savage plan to participate in a news conference Thursday in Lewiston shortly before a public hearing on the project called by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. A large crowd is expected for the 4 p.m. hearing at the Ramada Inn.

The Maine Green Independent Party, founded in 1984, is aiming to put Savage, a Solon teacher, on the ballot next year as its U.S. Senate candidate. If it succeeds in gathering the required 2,000 signatures from party members, Savage would secure a chance to take on Republican Susan Collins in November 2020.

Savage said the advent of ranked-choice voting in Maine is “a game-changer” for Greens because it allows people to cast second and third place votes, should the Green Party’s contender fail to wind up among the top two. It effectively ends the spoiler effect that made many Democrats look askance at minor party and independent candidates.

Stein said “Maine is really leading the charge” toward a better way of doing campaigns, both with ranked-choice voting and with its Clean Election program.

She said that ultimately, it allows for more candidates so people have more voices to pick from. Savage, she said, is a perfect example of a good candidate who has a real chance because of the policy change.

Stein said ranked-choice voting undercuts one of the things people get “crazed about” — the idea that Greens snatch votes away from Democrats and hand wins to Republicans as a result, an accusation she faced in 2016 and Ralph Nader faced in the 2000 race.

Ranked-choice voting, she said, demonstrates they’re upset about “a manufactured problem” that’s merely the result of using the wrong system for elections.

Given that so many people are searching for alternatives, silencing minor parties is not the right answer. It’s a form of voter suppression, Stein said.

Stein, a 69-year-old physician from Massachusetts, twice ran unsuccessfully for governor in her home state before taking aim at the White House. In the last presidential election, she got 1% of the national popular vote — 1.46 million votes in all — and came in fourth.

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