The 130th Maine Legislature was recently sworn in, and already Hydro-Quebec — the supplier of energy for the so-called Central Maine Power Corridor powerline project through western Maine — has begun its efforts to pit Maine lawmakers against their own constituents, who want to have the opportunity to vote on the controversial project in a statewide referendum.

As legislators, and volunteer signature gatherers ourselves, we find their continued efforts to influence the outcome of elections in Maine appalling, which is why we recently sent a letter to our colleagues to warn them of Hydro-Quebec’s rank hypocrisy.

Sen. Richard Bennett

Under Maine law, it is illegal for a foreign government to directly interfere in the election of a candidate for office. Unfortunately, our law doesn’t yet extend to referendum efforts, which is how Hydro-Quebec, a corporation owned solely by the government of Quebec, has managed to funnel $9.2 million into a political action committee to influence Maine voters this year. Ironically, this sort of foreign interference is illegal in Quebec, and its continued efforts to influence the outcome of CMP’s New England Clean Energy Connect corridor project highlights the imminent need for the Maine Legislature to close this absurd loophole in our election law.

In their advertisements and correspondences with Maine lawmakers, Hydro-Quebec and foreign-owned CMP, its partner for the project, make a lot of claims about the supposed environmental and financial “benefits” of the NECEC. However, considering the fact that this project is worth $12.4 billion to Hydro-Quebec and nearly $3 billion to CMP, Mainers would be wise to view their claims with a healthy dose of skepticism.

The truth is that over the last decade, CMP has systematically testified in opposition to nearly every single bill that would spur Maine’s clean energy economy, and in 2019, Hydro-Quebec and CMP hired a whopping 30 lobbyists to kill one bill, LD 640, that would have conducted an exhaustive study of the project’s impacts on regional greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, Hydro-Quebec has never testified before a regulatory body in Maine about the source of the power, because it doesn’t want Mainers (or its new customer, the state of Massachusetts) to know that this project is nothing more than a shell game.

Rep. Nicole Grohoski

Hydro-Quebec’s main mission isn’t to save our environment from global warming. In fact, six of its reservoirs are ranked in the top quarter of the world’s biggest carbon emitting hydro facilities. Rather, Hydro-Quebec’s mission is to double profits by 2030, and selling its existing power to New England markets at an inflated rate is a key component of its plan. Because Hydro-Quebec is owned by the Province of Quebec, much of its profits are then passed on to the government. In 2019 alone, it paid out $1.7 billion USD in dividends to the province.

In stark contrast, the measly “benefits” package offered to Mainers amounts to mere pennies per month, and it’s far less generous than packages offered to neighboring New Hampshire and Vermont for the transmission of this exact same power.

Hydro-Quebec also doesn’t want Mainers to know about its ethically-questionable background, but fortunately that narrative is starting to come out as First Nations tribes across Quebec and the Penobscot Nation here in Maine have begun to tell of the unconscionable practices Hydro-Quebec has engaged in for decades to illegally flood ancestral lands without compensation or consent, in direct violation of the constitutional rights of the tribes who occupy those lands.

Hydro-Quebec’s immoral practices have created two distinct classes in Quebec, with the impacted native populations being forced to live in conditions comparable to Third World countries while the non-indigenous population benefits financially from their plight. Until Hydro-Quebec takes appropriate steps to uphold the constitutional rights of the affected tribes whose land it profits from, we shouldn’t do business with it, plain and simple.

Regardless of which way you cut it, the truth boils down to this: NECEC is a for-profit project that will make two foreign corporations billions upon billions of dollars. It has nothing to do with combating the serious issue of global warming, and it is not in the best interest of Maine to allow Hydro-Quebec to flood our New England grid with its environmentally and ethically dirty energy, at the bidding of Massachusetts.

That’s why as lawmakers and concerned Maine citizens, we would urge our fellow colleagues to join us in the bipartisan effort to do what’s best for our great state. Our constituents expect nothing less.

Sen. Richard A. Bennett (R-Oxford) and Rep. Nicole Grohoski (D-Ellsworth) serve in the 130th Maine Legislature.


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