REGION — “This is truly David and Goliath, and we’re David,” said Tom Saviello, lead petitioner against Central Maine Power Company’s proposed corridor project the New England Clean Energy Connect (NECEC).

The NECEC is a 145-mile high voltage direct transmission line proposed to cut across Western Maine and to be partially buried in a tunnel beneath the Kennebec River Gorge. The line will connect to yet to be constructed and permitted transmission lines in the province of Québec by Canadian public utility company Hydro-Québec.

The New England Clean Energy Connect is a proposed transmission line by Central Maine Power Company and Hydro-Québec. The high-voltage direct current transmission line would run from Lewiston to Beattie Township on the Canada border and connect to Hydro-Québec’s infrastructure.

Close to 200 volunteers gathered more than 23,000 signatures on their first day out during election day on Nov. 3, for the no CMP corridor petition, the second petition launched against the project. Saviello collected 201 signatures during his four-hour shift outside of the Wilton Town Office with residents signing the petition as they left the polls.

“I got snowed on; I got winded on, but I was comfortable. I had my wool shirt, my wool underwear, my wool pants, warm socks,” Saviello said. “I was comfortable, but if you look at my petitions, you can see I had brushed snow off it, I kept changing pens because the paper got wet, so people could finish signing it.”

After a blustery day of petitioning, more than 500 signatures were collected in Wilton alone. The petition will need to reach 63,400 signatures by early January for the NECEC to be reconsidered through a state referendum.

The petition is asking that the Maine Legislature must approve any high-impact transmission lines through a two thirds majority vote and that this requirement would be retroactive by six years.

Petition efforts against NECEC will once again receive assistance from Revolution Field Strategies, a grassroots organizing and public affairs consulting firm from Boston.

The petition will also gain significant publicity through the $5.8 million media campaign funded by the political action committee (PAC) Mainers for Local Power. The PAC is formed by Texas-based energy companies Vistra and Calpine, both of which own natural gas electricity generation plants in Maine.

Meanwhile, Hydro-Québec’s U.S. affiliate H.Q. Energy Services has extended its $449,000 contract with Forbes Tate Partners LLC, based out of Washington D.C., on Nov. 2, to assist the power company with its own media strategies.

To further promote the NECEC, CMP’s parent company Avangrid formed the PAC Clean Energy Matters which has already spent close to $10.5 million on advertising for the corridor project.

Clean Energy Matters has released statements highlighting that the NECEC taps into hydropower, taking a step away from fossil fuels. The PAC has also criticized the latest no CMP corridor petition for its potentially threatening language to future renewable energy projects in Maine.

“It’s not just the NECEC that is at risk here. This new referendum is so broadly written that it could jeopardize other major renewable energy projects in Maine, including solar, wind, and offshore wind projects, threatening Maine’s ability to meet our carbon reduction goals. We can’t afford to further politicize Maine’s energy needs every time we want to invest in a major renewable energy project,” Executive Director of Clean Energy Matters Jon Breed said, in a press release.

A major reason behind opposition to the corridor project is what groups such as the  Appalachian Mountain Club, Natural Resources Council of Maine and Sierra Club Maine say is a poor environmental analysis conducted by the  U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Penobscot Chief Kirk E. Francis addressed U.S. Army Corp of Engineers Colonel William Conde in a letter dated July 22, requesting an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

According to the American Bar Association, an EIA is a report “mandated by the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), to assess the potential impact of actions ‘significantly affecting the quality of the human environment.’” An EIS determines a proposed project’s effects on physical, cultural and human environments.

As Francis wrote to the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, an EIS would require an environmental assessment that does not simply come to a halt at the U.S.-Québec border.

“The Nation makes this request for two reasons: (1) NECEC will have substantial impacts on Maine’s environment and (2) NECEC will also have significant impacts on the INNU Nation in Labrador,” Francis wrote. “Only a complete EIS can provide the comprehensive environmental evaluation necessary before any permitting decision can be made. And a failure to prepare an EIS has a high likelihood of being overturned in court, as the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s recent victory in the Dakota Access Pipeline case demonstrates.”

Across the border is the Anishnabe-Atikamekw-Innu First Coalition, a group of five indigenous communities that are contesting Hydro-Québec’s plan to expand its hydropower and transmission lines to benefit New England.

On the coalition’s website https://Québechydroclash.com recently launched on Thursday, the group states that Hydro-Québec has a longstanding history of stealing indigenous land and that the corridor project would continue this practice.

“Hydro-Québec believes that it can export large volumes of electricity to New England without even considering that 36% of this energy is, for all intents and purposes, “stolen” from the First Nations whose territory it is illegally produced on. With the complicit involvement of the Québec and Canadian government, Hydro-Québec plans to achieve its objective without regard for the ancestral rights of the communities in question, rights which are, however, recognized by the Supreme Court and the Canadian Constitution,” the website states.

On Mon., Nov. 9, Chief Ghislain Picard of the Assembly of First Nations Québec-Labrador (AFNQL), an organization of 10 First Nations in 43 communities throughout Québec and Labrador, wrote to Hydro-Québec President and CEO Sophie Brochu.

In the letter, Picard outlined the long-standing effects that the hydropower company’s illegal actions have had on First Nation peoples. Picard referenced the 6,500 kilometers of Innu traditional territory that Hydro-Québec illegally flooded in its 1967 Churchill Falls Project that continued into the ’70s.

“This project has had and continues to have major impacts on the environment and the rights of the Labrador Innu Nation,” Picard wrote. “Archaeological sites, cemeteries, and resources essential to the practices of the Labrador Innu were destroyed by the Churchill River harnessing and by the flooding of a territory as large as Prince Edward Island.”

Picard called on the company to engage in a reconciliation process and to recognize that the proposed NECEC requires the Anishnabe-Atikamekw-Innu First Coalition consent as it would run through the land of these communities.

“Hydro-Québec has a responsibility to correct this inequity and injustice and the exploitation of First Nations’ resources and territories without their consent must stop,” Picard wrote. “Hydro-Québec can no longer decline its responsibility and blame it on the governments of Québec and Canada. It is its installations and projects that infringe on the rights and territories of First Nations and it must assume the consequences.”

 

 

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