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Maine high court overturns referendum that had blocked more Quebec hydropower from Massachusetts

The Bangor Daily News reports Maine's Supreme Judicial Court today ruled that a 2021 referendum to block power lines that would have connected hydropower generators in Quebec to the Massachusetts power grid was unconstitutional.

Massachusetts had been counting on the power to help the state meet its clean-energy goals and help assure meet future energy needs.

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Couldn’t this same ruling be used for other large scale project like Keystone XL, the border wall, etc.

Voting closed 8

1) The Keystone Pipeline extension was never actually approved: the Obama administration rejected the application, and though the Trump administration tried to revive it, their efforts were blocked by federal courts (including SCOTUS) because it violated the Endangered Species Act and the Administrative Procedures Act. So TransCanada doesn’t have a due process complaint.

2) The border wall is directly owned by the federal government, unlike the pipeline or hydro transmission line, and the contractors don’t have any vested property rights under consideration. There might be a due process issue with abruptly canceling a specific contract but since the government owns the wall, it can decide not to build the wall.

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Very helpful summary. Thanks.

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Electricity prices are insane. All for anything which lowers costs while not using fossil fuels.

And yes, I know a corridor needs to be cleared for transmission wires. I'll happily pay money for more trees to be planted elsewhere to help offset the loss of woodlands. At the end of the day, this is a net positive for everyone other than NIMBY Mainers and their corporate energy backers.

Voting closed 41

This ballot amendment was basically an unholy alliance of right- and left-leaning Mainers who wanted to stick it to people from Massachusetts. That was basically the argument: don't let them build this, people from Massachusetts will benefit. Never mind more jobs for Mainers, tax revenue for Mainers, more clean energy for Mainers: if Massholes might benefit then it was bad.

Behind of this was a bunch of natural gas plant owners, who would lose out on a lot of money if hydro power were imported instead. And also the Natural Resources Council of Maine. You can't make this up:

The PACs had raised $27.65 million, including $20.20 million from NextEra Energy Resources, LLC, which owned a natural gas-fired plant in Cumberland, Maine, and six solar fields or projects in southern and central Maine; $3.61 million from Vistra Energy Corp., which owned a natural gas-fired plant in Veazie, Maine; and $3.26 million from Calpine Corp., which owned a natural gas-fired plant in Westbrook, Maine

The NRCM went on and on about the precious natural areas which were going to be spoiled by the power lines, even though all of the land which the power lines would run across is owned by logging companies and managed as timberland.

CMP’s proposal would cut 53 miles of new line through undeveloped parts of Maine’s North Woods. The damage would fragment the largest contiguous temperate forest in North America and perhaps the world.

You may not like that most of Northern Maine is owned by private timberland owners, but it is. They cut down trees and support the industry there. A powerline will change how the land is used in a small portion of this, but it's not like they're cutting down virgin forest for it. They're cutting down forest which would be cut down at some point anyway. It's not a power line through Acadia or Baxter. In fact, it would follow an existing power line across the Appalachian Trail.

In the near future, the power line would be used to bring power from Quebec to ISO-NE. But in the future, especially as offshore wind and solar are developed, it could be used in both directions, so that on a sunny, windy day in Massachusetts (and offshore, for the wind), power could be exported to Quebec, allowing them to hold more water back in their dams, and then release it when it is cloudier/darker/calmer. Essentially, turn the huge storage capacity of HQ into a huge battery for solar/wind.

Anyway, good riddance for natural gas interests coopting Maine's environmental groups to block access to low-carbon energy. And shame on the NRCM for buying into it.

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And a transmission corridor doesn't block anything from moving across it. It's not like a highway, or a high speed rail line, that uses massive regrading, fences, fast-moving heavy vehicles, and impermeable surfaces. The ROW will function like any meadow or clearing in the forest does.

Voting closed 32

A lot of transmission paths are maintained as tall grass or scrub, which provides good habitat especially when next to forest. "Edges" are high in biodiversity.

It's not like a highway that acts as a barrier for animals that want to move from one side to the other. (Well, it would be a barrier for some smaller animals that are afraid of open spaces and hawks, but I'm thinking about larger fauna like foxes, deer, bobcats, etc.)

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Meadows are good for deer and moose, and the areas under the powerlines could be managed as such. There is some question about brook trout getting more sun, but the bogs and brooks crossed by the corridor could be managed to provide enough cover that they remain shaded. Still, it's not untouched, roadless wilderness. They're not bisecting Acadia or Baxter or the White Mountain National Forest.

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Maybe we should get our power from Maine instead of Quebec? Would Mainers oppose us lowlanders buying from them or is it that they really don't like lowlanders?

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Various rivers in Maine provide hydro that goes into the grid, so I expect we probably are buying from them. But this would tap sources in Quebec, such as the Ottawa River which is huge.

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The corridor was rejected by the people of Maine and customers of CMP because CMP has consistently been the lowest ranked utility in the US, doing little to nothing to improve services for Maine customers for decades, yet delivering millions of dollars in profits to overseas owners. You cannot imagine the level of distrust, if not downright hate that exists in the hearts of the people here when it comes to CMP. None of the vote was about "sticking it" to anyone but CMP.

We're actually kind of OK with the people of Massachusetts. You guys are good in our book as long as you keep coming up and buying overpriced lobster rolls.

But, it didn't help that ALL of the benefit of the corridor was ONLY for Massachusetts, Quebec Hydro and CMP, with NO benefit for the ratepayers in Maine. To correct a few things stated above:
Building the corridor creates only a minor job blip for Mainers (most of the work is being done by out-of-state contractors from all over the US).
Building the corridor brings NO clean energy to Mainers (all the power is delivered to Massachusetts, Maine can't tap in and there is no commitment from Massachusetts to sell any of the energy from Quebec back to CMP or Versant).
Building the corridor brings NO real new tax revenue to Maine (nothing to tax since none of the energy is going to Maine).

Basically we rejected it for the same reasons New Hampshire rejected it a few years ago, with the added incentive of collectively hating CMP.

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I can see where you are coming from on this and really appreciate your view.

I don't particularly think any of these companies are "good", but believe additional power and competition has some impact on prices.

On it's surfaces it might look like a nothing burger for any one region, but the New England grid is all connected.

I downloaded the iso-ne app and could watch power prices in real time, and it turns out each region has only slight differences in price. When any one of them goes up, they all tend to follow suit.

Given Massachusetts' purchasing power, it will bid up the price of electricity to meet it's needs, and every other state will correspondingly pay a similar rate. Any new (particularly cheap) supply should have downward impact on price for all members.

As Ari has pointed out, if there is a two-way energy component to this, it may even help boost renewable energy across the entire region and help alleviate the exceptionally sharp peak price events.

At the end of the day, it's not a round dollar figures in any state's pocket, but new competition (and capacity) on the entire region's generation rates. The net outcome should result in "downward pressure" on electric prices for Mainers too.

Seriously though, the iso-ne real time energy price maps are pretty Illuminating. It has torched the idea that any one state benefits considerably more than another for me.

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Christmas tree delivery this year?

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The tree comes from Nova Scotia. It can go by water if need be.

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