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Power to the People!

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

- Margaret Mead

Feb. 7, 2020 – Margaret Mead’s quotes have inspired many grassroots groups and their movements. I know that the above quote helped carry RAGE to successfully oppose JCP&L’s proposed high power transmission line through the five towns. If you go to CHARGE’s website page, you will see these words memorialized at the bottom of the home page.

Now, in what many believe to be a historic first, a citizens group opposing a transmission line through Maine gathered sufficient signatures for a referendum to force the issue to be decided by voters of the State of Maine at the November general election.

At issue is a $1 billion 145-mile transmission line to deliver hydroelectric power from Canada to Massachusetts. After failing to get approval for a transmission corridor through neighboring New Hampshire, the project sponsor turned to Maine. Most of the project would involve expanding an existing corridor, but about one-third would require cutting a 150-foot wide swath through undeveloped woods in two counties. Opponents say the environmental benefits of the project have been overstated, and that it would devastate a region that relies on its natural beauty for tourism and local livelihood.

Regulators from the Maine Public Utilities Commission (“PUC”) and the Land Use Planning Commission have already approved the project by Central Maine Power (“CMP”). However, on Monday of this week, the citizens group No CMP Corridor submitted more than 75,000 signatures, significantly above the minimum 63,067 signatures needed, from registered Maine voters to the Secretary of the State for Maine for the referendum.

As most RAGErs know, we were able to generate a huge public outcry and engaged many of our elected officials to support us. More than 3,000 of you attended the second public hearing at Brookdale Community College. We filed to be an intervenor and, thanks to your generosity, also raised the money needed to hire our own lawyer to argue the case before Administrative Law Judge Gail Cookson.

Ultimately and for good reasons, ALJ Cookson denied JCP&L’s petition and the Board of Public Utilities unanimously adopted that decision and issued an order denying the petition. Had the BPU decided to approve the petition, our only option would be to appeal the decision, a long shot and one that would require more money.

Not surprisingly, CMP spent almost $2.2 million over the last three months through a political action committee to promote the project. Citizens group No CMP Corridor raised $18,800 in cash and $49,000 from “in-kind” donations and spent $19,125! It should be noted that gathering 75,000 signatures in more than 400 towns in the middle of winter in Maine is no easy feat. Congratulations to Tom Saviello and Sandi Howard, the two Co-Chairs of No CMP Corridor, and to their many volunteers for their great accomplishment!

Regardless of the outcome, kudos to No CMP Corridor for pursuing the strategy for a referendum where state voters might be able to overturn an order by their PUC. This is unprecedented and could give a new tool for consumer advocates and activists to use.

See the following link to a news article in the Penobscot Bay Pilot:

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