AUBURN — The Androscoggin County Commission voted Wednesday night to rescind a 2½-year-old   letter of support for Central Maine Power’s proposed transmission corridor through western Maine. 

Following two hours of input from the public, the commission voted 5-1 in favor of withdrawing the support given to the project in 2017. Commissioner Noel Madore opposed the measure. 

Roughly a dozen people spoke at the meeting to voice their opposition to CMP’s controversial plan. No one from the public spoke in favor of the New England Clean Energy Connect project and CMP did not send a representative to the meeting. 

One by one, men and women from towns including New Sharon, Wilton and Moxie Gore stepped up to the podium to voice their concerns about the project. Most came with clipboards, notebooks and various spreadsheets that outlined facts and figures associated with the project. 

Former state Sen. Tom Saviello of Wilton speaks at a public hearing in December 2019 on CMP’s plan to bring hydropower from Quebec through Maine to Massachusetts. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

First to the podium was Tom Saviello, a selectman in Wilton — a town which originally supported the CMP project but later voted 162-1 to remove their support. 

Saviello, trained in forestry, described the project as a bad idea on many levels, and from a company that’s already been accused of overcharging customers, along with other misdeeds. 

“Now they want to rip the state of Maine in half so they can send power to Massachusetts,” he said. 

The project won’t lead to as many jobs for Mainers as promised, Saviello insisted. It would obliterate the state’s biomass industry, which would actually result in the loss of thousands of jobs, he said. 

“It’s a bad deal for Maine,” he said. 

Bob Rowe, former director of Lewiston’s New Beginnings, described the proposed CMP project as a environmental nightmare with little to no real benefits to the people of Maine.  

He described the growing opposition to the plan as an outright rebellion. 

“Until those people offer us a hell of a better deal,” Rowe said, “I don’t see why we would buy it.” 

Nick Bennett, staff scientist and Healthy Waters project director at the National Resources Council of Maine, described several environmental horrors the plan would subject the state to. Among them, severe impact on hundreds of streams where brook trout flourish and the bisection of areas near The Forks which animals rely on for surviving winters — that and worse, Bennett said, all so corporations can profit by sending energy from Canada into Massachusetts. 

“This is just robbing Peter to pay Paul,” Bennett said. 

Bennett, Saviello and several others also expressed their concerns about wetlands and about spraying the pesticide Roundup, which they said CMP will need to do in order to maintain the clear space along their corridor. 

Several people stepped up to the podium to describe their efforts to collect signatures of people in opposition to the CMP plan. Those collections, they said, were effortless because so many people in so many Maine towns are passionately opposed to the corridor project. 

“Nobody in your towns wants this,” one woman told the commission. “Nobody. You’ve got to understand that. There is no benefit to this.” 

Others opined that approval of the CMP project would, in future generations, be seen as the one terrible move that ruined the state known as “Vacationland.” One man said that by decimating so much of Maine’s wilderness, the state would be turned into “a cold New Jersey.” 

Others pointed to the diversity of people opposed to the CMP plan, a fact that seemed to be affirmed by the split of Democrats and Republicans who showed up for a unified cause Wednesday night. 

A few at the meeting wondered aloud why Gov. Janet Mills supports the project when it will have such a detrimental impact on the state. 

When the public input period was finished, the commissioners discussed the matter briefly among themselves before calling for a vote. Five hands went up to vote for withdrawing support for the project. Madore, who also offered support for the plan in 2017, voted in opposition. 

Opposition to the CMP project has been growing steadily in several towns, cities and counties across the state. The Green Party also came out strong against the proposed $1 billion project to bring Quebec hydropower through Maine to feed into the electricity grid that supplies New England. 

Project planners, however, still have hope in one corner of Androscoggin County. 

In September, the Lewiston City Council voted unanimously to rezone a 20-acre Central Maine Power parcel that is the proposed site of a large converter station for the controversial project. 

While the council heard multiple concerns from Lewiston residents and others who live outside the city, the unanimous vote by city officials followed months of support for the project, which promised some $8 million in annual tax revenue for the city. 


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