Statement in Opposition to the New England Clean Energy Connect Project and CMP Corridor
Updated: Oct 25, 2021
We, the members of Maine Youth for Climate Justice (MYCJ), stand firmly in opposition to the Central Maine Power (CMP) Corridor and New England Clean Energy Connect (NECEC) project. MYCJ is a coalition of over 300 youth and 20 youth organizations from across Maine who are fighting for bold climate action, a just transition, and a livable future. Acknowledging that the climate crisis is rooted in systemic forms of oppression, and disproportionately impacts marginalized communities, MYCJ aims to center the voices of folks who have been historically excluded from political conversations and narratives around climate activism. We fight to ensure that our communities, environment, and climate are protected for future generations. We stand in opposition to energy projects that do not reflect a holistic understanding of a clean energy transition and do not center justice as a critical principle. The CMP Corridor is not a climate justice solution and it will not help us attain the clean energy future we imagine and deserve.
CMP is building a 145-mile above ground energy transmission line through western Maine to bring Hydro-Quebec’s hydropower from Quebec, Canada to consumers in Massachusetts. Currently, CMP has received most state and federal permits to proceed with the project, and construction has already begun. However, these permits are contested, particularly the one issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which failed to conduct a full Environmental Impact Statement, has been fought in court by prominent environmental and climate organizations. Additionally, Maine’s Superior Court recently ruled that the DEP license for the public land lease was granted illegally to CMP and that CMP does not have the full right or title to the public land along the Corridor route. For these reasons, we believe Governor Janet Mills and Governor Charlie Baker have turned their backs on their constituents, instead handing power over to multinational corporations to control our energy grid and continue to destroy the environment and disrupt communities. We deserve better.
The CMP Corridor would clear a path through Canadian and Maine forests, permanently altering what is considered to be one of the largest contiguous tracts of temperate forest in the world. The environmental impacts on wildlife, forests, wetlands, and waterways are vast, threatening species that rely on uninterrupted waterways and swathes of forest, including pine marten and brook trout. These environmental impacts are coupled with intense local economic impacts; statewide, Maine’s economy heavily relies on outdoor recreation and tourism, and regions along this Corridor rely on natural spaces for their livelihoods. While we recognize that much of this area in Maine is working timber forest, we emphasize that the Corridor, as planned, would have far more impact than it should. The route was not designed to minimize environmental impacts, but rather to minimize cost, and such negligent and irresponsible planning is nothing short of tragic. This sets a dangerous precedent for use of Maine lands going forward.
Mainers know that the CMP Corridor is a bad deal for Maine, which is reflected in its intense unpopularity. State-wide opposition (65%) only grows when you look at counties impacted by the new project– Somerset (83%) and Franklin (90%). 25 towns have stated their opposition or rescinded their support for the Corridor, including many along the Corridor’s route. The opposition to the Corridor is broad: uniting Republicans and Democrats, recreationalists and naturalists, hunters and fishermen, youth and elders. This unlikely coalition of Mainers are rallying around the protection and stewardship of our natural spaces emphasizes how Governor Mills and CMP have turned their back on Mainers.
In Maine, the concerns around the CMP Corridor have often been narrow, highlighting the direct impacts within the state, but not looking beyond its borders. And while there is a robust discussion about the implications of the project in Maine and a long ongoing discussion about hydroelectricity in Canada, Massachusetts appears to have little to no widespread opposition or concerns. Under a push for decarbonization, Massachusetts continues to frame this project as ‘clean’, ‘green’, and ‘renewable’ without considering the larger impacts of such energy choices. While hydropower is technically renewable, megadams are incredibly damaging to surrounding ecosystems. A report regarding the NECEC project and carbon emissions also found that “NECEC will not result in a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, and may even increase them.” The impacts of this project must be considered beyond the boundaries of our state, as the landscape and climate has no borders. Massachusetts has made the decisions to seek power from Hydro-Quebec without any consideration of the impacts to communities in Canada and Maine. We implore those in our neighboring state to take a stand against the CMP Corridor.
It is essential to highlight that we are not advocating for a different Corridor pathway, as we believe hydropower does not have a place in the future of clean energy transition. Beyond the physical Corridor, one of the most glaring environmental injustices of this project is the irreparable harm that Hydro-Quebec’s megadams are causing to Indigenous communities, including forced displacement, land theft, methylmercury poisoniong, and food insecurity, all resulting in cultural genocide. In Canada, the Innu Nation’s resistance against Hydro-Québec exemplifies the environmental injustices they have experienced in previous dam constructions that have devastated their homelands and have operated without the consent of the community in direct conflict with Tribal Sovereignty. MYCJ stands in solidarity with the Innu Nation of Labrador, Wemotaci (Atikamekw), Pikogan, Lac Simon, Kitcisakik and Winneway (Anishinabe) in Canada, the Penobscot Nation in Maine, and the Herring Pond Wampanoag Tribe, the Pocasset Wampanoag Tribe, and the Nipmuc Nation in Massachusetts among others who are actively fighting and speaking out in opposition to the CMP Corridor to protect ancestral lands, harvesting and hunting territories, and Tribal communities. Indigenous peoples have been the enduring stewards of this land for millennia and we stand beside them in opposition to the CMP Corridor.
CMP has never acted in the best interests of Mainers which has left them as one of the worst rated utility companies in the country. CMP, Avangrid (CMP’s parent company), and Hydro-Québec have staged a public relations campaign to try to deceive Mainers. Disinformation and misleading claims have centered the core falsehood that the CMP Corridor will work to combat the effects of climate change. This is not true. From the name of the project, New England Clean Energy Connect, to using retroactivity as a scare tactic, CMP has attempted to cast itself as pro-renewable energy despite their project producing no new renewable power. CMP’s efforts to mislead Mainers are shameful, and no number of poorly run surveys, pamphlets, or television ad spots will make the CMP Corridor good for Maine; our dedicated grassroots opposition isn’t going anywhere.
Mainers have made headway in this fight. MYCJ supports and applauds the legal efforts to challenge the validity of CMP’s permitting process, as well as the grassroots efforts fighting each day to return decision-making power on issues of energy to Maine voters. While we remain hopeful that these efforts will stop the CMP Corridor, we know that this project is the result of a systemic problem that prioritizes profits over people and the environment. We need to be armed with long term, sustainable solutions that ensure a future of environmental justice and bold climate action. Localized power generation and the establishment of a consumer-owned utility vest Maine power with Maine people. Mainers should have control over our state's energy future. The consumer-owned utility is an opportunity to give power back to Maine’s communities and reduce costs for ratepayers. This would allow for greater transparency and control over the decision making process. This can be the foundation on which to transition to a just energy future. Maine has the opportunity to shift to an independent model and reinvest revenue back into the state, not line the pockets of corporations and their shareholders. For youth, who will be living with the consequences of these decisions for decades, this shift is crucial.
As youth, we deserve to have a voice in the future of our planet. Concerned about the climate and environmental justice implications of this project, last year we sent a letter to the United States Army Corps of Engineers, stating that an environmental impact statement had not been properly conducted. We have written letters, submitted testimony in support of bills that would stop this project, and have worked to educate others in the region about the Corridor and the detrimental impacts of hydropower. Recently, MYCJ testified at the DEP hearing to request the DEP revoke the license CMP holds to construct part of the Corridor on Maine’s public land. What we need now is increased transparency and public input to give Mainers the chance to express their opposition to this project to our leaders and lawmakers. Mainers will soon have the opportunity to once again weigh in on this issue, this time at the ballot box. We call on Maine voters to vote yes on question 1 to reject the CMP Corridor.
With local and just solutions on the horizon, we are hopeful for our collective future. We are calling upon our leaders, lawmakers, and adult allies to heed our concerns and take the necessary steps to stop this project and future projects like this one. Maine has great potential for local power generation and needs to transition to clean and just energy sources that benefit local communities right now. We must reframe the way we think about and understand renewable energy by assessing new projects with an equity and justice lens and thinking about long term impacts. We hope you will join us in this fight.