Woolwich voters weigh petitioned corridor questions

Mon, 10/21/2019 - 8:45am

Woolwich voters will have a say on the New England Clean Energy Connect (NECEC), Central Maine Power’s controversial corridor project when they head to the polls Nov. 5. Residents opposed to the project petitioned for the town-wide vote.

Earlier this year, the select board sent a letter to CMP supporting the project that would carry hydroelectric power from Quebec, Canada through Maine to Massachusetts. At the urging of residents Sherri Harvey and Danielle Friend, the board took up the issue in September. Dale Chadbourne and Allison Hepler rescinded their earlier support but were out-voted by Jason Shaw, Allen Greene and Chairman David King Sr. Petitions began circulating the next day.  

Harvey, one of the petition organizers, told the Wiscasset Newspaper the corridor issue is too important for Woolwich voters not to be heard. Harvey, Friend, Rachel Murphy and Ruth Behring first wanted concerns debated at a town meeting. “Many of the people that we spoke to were completely caught off guard by the select board’s vote,” said Harvey. “They didn’t see how this could be a good deal for Woolwich, let alone the entire state.”

Harvey said that when she was going door-to-door collecting signatures, many of her neighbors told her they lacked faith in CMP following its billing issues. News of the petition effort spread quickly by word of mouth and on Facebook. “A handful of folks even registered to vote just to get their names on it,” added Harvey who said she’d given testimony to Maine’s Public Utilities Commission during hearings on the billing issues.

Greene and Chadbourne are both seeking re-election Nov. 5 and see the corridor issue from different perspectives.

“I’m in favor of it because it’s a clean energy project. It lessens our dependence on burning fossil fuels to create energy.” Greene said. “I’m not a proponent of CMP but I am a proponent of clean energy. I’ve studied the issue and believe the hydroelectric power the corridor project will carry from Quebec will ultimately be good for New England and the nation,” he added. With that said, Greene promised to support whatever voters decide.

Chadbourne is among the NECEC skeptics. He said he has a hard time believing CMP officials and the project’s promised benefits. “Between the ongoing controversy over their meters and the issue we had here in town with their transmission towers on Chop Point, I question a lot of what they’re telling us about the corridor project,” said Chadbourne. “I intend to vote in favor of the referendum questions but I’ll support whatever the outcome is. I do think this will bring more people out to the polls. I see ‘No Corridor’ signs all over town.”

CMP has said the project will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by replacing fossil fuel-generated power with hydro-generated electricity produced in Canada.

The petitioners requested two separate YES/NO articles. The first: “To see if the Town will vote to oppose the Central Maine Power (CMP) New England Clean Energy Connect (NECEC) 145 Mile Hydro-electric Transmission Line Project from Quebec border through the State of Maine?”

The second: “To see if the Town will vote to authorize the Selectmen to submit a letter of opposition to: Central Maine Power (CMP) New England Clean Energy Connect (NECEC), Maine Public Utilities Commission, Maine Department of Environmental Protection, and Maine Land Use Planning Commission; on behalf of the Inhabitants of the Town of Woolwich in the event that Article #1 is passed with a YES vote?”

The lone contested race on the ballot is a three-year term on the Regional School Unit 1 board. The term is for an unrestricted residence seat. The candidates are Lorna Ryan of Woolwich and Alan Walton of Bath.