Governor Mills: Why I voted No on Question One.

People have asked me how I’m voting on Question One, the NECEC Corridor. Well, I voted just the other day at my town office. And I voted No.

This is Governor Janet Mills. Let me tell you why.

Last night, thousands of Maine people turned up their thermostats to keep warm as the weather gets colder. For nearly 60 percent of Maine homeowners, that means their oil furnace is firing up, and, at an average of $3.10 a gallon, Maine families are spending more money on fossil fuels that ought to go to groceries, medicines, school supplies...

The sad fact is, our state is the most heating oil dependent state in the country. Maine families send more than $4 billion every year to out-of-state fossil fuel companies for heating oil. The high cost of energy and electricity are slowing down our economy, while carbon emissions in our atmosphere threaten our health and our environment.

I ran for Governor promising to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and to do something about climate change. And I told you I would tell you exactly how I feel. 

We just can’t afford just to do nothing.

I support the New England Clean Energy Connect, and I urge you to vote No on Question 1, because it is about climate change.

Utilizing clean hydropower already in existence, this project will put our state and our region on the road to a zero-carbon economy. Enhancing the reliability of our grid to avoid a loss of power in storms, it will also reduce carbon emissions in New England by 3.6 million metric tons a year — It’s like taking 767,000 gas guzzling cars off the road.

This project will allow us to buy electric vehicles and to put charging stations all across the state. 

It will let Maine families turn off the furnace and heat their home in the winter and cool it in the summer with modern and very efficient heat pumps.

It is no wonder why fossil fuel companies are threatened by this project and are fighting it tooth and nail.

By all objective analyses, this project will hold down the price of electricity all across the region, saving Maine ratepayers alone millions of dollars each year. And, as a result of my negotiations with Hydro-Québec, the project will deliver clean electricity directly to Maine to as many as 70,000 to 75,000 homes right here in our state at a discounted rate.

And it will cost Maine ratepayers nothing. Massachusetts will foot the bill.

This project is already creating construction jobs in rural Maine, and with an investment of nearly $1 billion in the first ten years, it’ll provide substantial tax benefits to Lewiston and other communities along the route, as well as scholarships for youth and 145 miles of broadband fiber from Jackman to Lewiston and all the way to Wiscasset.

Now, there are people of good will on both sides of this issue. And I acknowledge those who are worried about our environment. You know, Western Maine is where I live. It’s where I was born and grew up, and it will always be my home.

But, you should know, this project has also been changed a lot to minimize the environmental impact. It has undergone rigorous review, and in independently issuing its permit, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection has narrowed the corridor considerably, its required revegetation, and it requires the permanent conservation of 40,000 acres in Western Maine and the conservation of more than 700 acres of deer wintering habitat.

Now, make no mistake about it, I am no fan of CMP.  I understand the frustrations with CMP. And it’s why the Maine Public Utilities Commission, including two commissioners I appointed, is pushing CMP hard to become more reliable, more accountable and better managed.

And I believe our utilities should be held to the highest standards of accountability. Or else they shouldn’t do business in our state.

But honestly Question 1 won’t solve that problem. In fact, it might just send a chilling message of unintended consequences, a message to others, including renewable energy companies, that they might have to have the rug pulled out from under them long after they’ve invested and played by the rules and gotten approvals, because of some change in the political winds.

Fundamentally, for me, it’s not about CMP. It’s about climate change. We need clean energy. We need reliable electricity. We’ve got to turn down the furnace and we’ve got to say no to fossil fuels.

And that’s why I voted No on Question One.

This is Governor Janet Mills. Thank you for listening.