No CMP Corridor, a grassroots advocacy PAC, sent out dozens of volunteers on Election Day, November 3, statewide to collect a new round of signatures to block the Central Maine Power’s (CMP) New England Clean Energy Connect (NECEC) proposal to build a 145-mile transmission line from the Québec-Maine border to Lewiston. During the day, volunteers posted updates on the Say NO to NECEC 501c3 non-profit Facebook group.
Many of these volunteers stood outside in 34-degree weather at 120 polling stations from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. explaining the issues to voters passing by. And they were fired up—for this is their second time collecting statewide signatures for a new referendum.
The quick back story: As reported by WGME, in February 2020, No CMP Corridor, delivered more than 76,000 signatures to Maine’s Secretary of State Office, to get a referendum question put on the November ballot and let the people of Maine decide on the $1 billion project.
But, by August, as reported by Bangor Daily News, the referendum was killed by the state’s high court, calling a particular question on the ballot unconstitutional, which effectively removed the question from the ballot on Nov. 3.
But that has not stopped the thousands of Mainers and visitors who support this effort from moving ahead with a new plan.
According to No CMP Corridor and Say No to NECEC’s leader Sandi Howard, the group mobilized to press forward with the goal to get 67,000 signatures in order to construct a new referendum that will ban all high-impact transmission lines in Maine without the approval of the legislature. The deadline to submit the signatures to the Secretary of State is by January 20.
The opponents to CMP’s corridor project got approval last week for the referendum effort to proceed and within days, hundreds of sign up sheets were reproduced and distributed to their polling place outposts.
At the Lincolnville Central School, No CMP Corridor volunteer, Andrea Palise stood outside the polling station by a table, keeping her hands warm. This issue, she said, was one of the few non-political issues Mainers could agree on.
“Both sides of the political spectrum can be involved in this project; it’s about nature, saving our environment,” she said. “It’s about preserving the last tracts of pristine woods in the Northeast, in North America. It’s absolutely important to me to oppose CMP and Avangrid [of which CMP is s subsidary]. They [TDI Vermont] already have permission in Vermont, but don’t want to spend the millions to bury the lines. so instead, they want to blow a Jersey turnpike-wide corridor through 53 miles of pristine wilderness. The reasons are many to oppose this project.”
Matt Wagner, from Knox, stood outside the Crosby Center in Belfast, on a cold, windy day. As one of the founders of Say No To NECEC, he said his dedication to this movement stems from his personal connection to the proposed corridor area.
“My wife and I were registered white water guides for 10 years and we lived in The Forks area, so we have a really strong sense of place there,” he said. “We go there and do a lot of hiking, camping, fishing, and boating with our two little kids, so we know the place really well. For almost three years now, we’ve been at this.”
Asked if he’d learned anything from having the original referendum struck down by legal language, he said: “They threw out our last campaign on the referendum, but in doing so, they gave us really explicit directions on what we could do on how to proceed forward. So, this referendum isn’t just bulletproof, it’s retroactive to September 1, which means CMP can’t claim that by starting to invest in this now, that they have some vested interest and they can sue the state for taking this project from them. We’re going to take this project away from them—they’re not going to build this in western Maine. Their investors are actually already aware of that.”
Given several reports from multiple Maine newspapers that the CMP corridor project is already taking place and certain sections of woods are being cleared for the transmission line is already happening, Wagner, dismissed the news, saying the photos coming out were misleading.
“They have to get their contract done, so they have to start doing something, but can’t they start cutting trees in the corridor until they have all of their permits and they don’t have all of the permits yet,” he said.
Despite the cold temperatures, COVID-19 pandemic, and record early voting in Maine, No CMP Corridor's volunteer signatures collected outside the polls from Kittery to Caribou. Volunteers reported collecting more than 23,000 signatures on Election Day, an impressive show of force on the first day of this new Citizen's Initiative effort.
Wagner said interested Midcoast citizens who want to add their signatures before January 20 or get involved, should visit the No CMP Corridor website and Facebook page, or send questions about how to volunteer or sign the petition to email@example.com.
Kay Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org