“Question 1” is a contentious and controversial measure that has now become the highest-funded ballot initiative in the state’s history. On Nov. 2, the state of Maine will put it and two other measures to a vote. The exact text of “Question 1” is as follows:
“Do you want to ban the construction of high-impact electric transmission lines in the Upper Kennebec Region and to require the Legislature to approve all other such projects anywhere in Maine, both retroactively to 2020, and to require the Legislature, retroactively to 2014, to approve by a two-thirds vote such projects using public land?”
The first part of this ballot measure asks voters if they would like to “ban the construction of high-impact electric transmission lines in the Upper Kennebec Region.” The measure is referring to the CMP corridor, a 145-mile stretch of land on which the company is building electric transmission lines. About 50 miles of the corridor will cross through unbroken forest that would need to be cut down before construction could begin. The corridor would, controversially, pass over a disputed stretch of public land.
These lines would be built by Central Maine Power (CMP) and send hydroelectric power from Canadian utility Hydro-Quebec to a converting station in Lewiston. From there, the electricity would be introduced into the New England energy grid, supplying power to most of the region with much of the power going to Massachusetts.
The ballot measure also asks voters if they would like “to require the Legislature to approve all other such projects anywhere in Maine, both retroactively to 2020, and to require the Legislature, retroactively to 2014, to approve by a two-thirds vote such projects using public land.”
This portion of the ballot measure requires two-thirds of the Maine legislature to re-approve all energy projects on public land going back to 2014. It mandates a vote on all energy projects on public land since 2020. Future energy projects would also be put to a vote. The year 2014 is significant as it was when the CMP project was initially approved.
If Maine residents vote “yes” on the initiative, then they are in favor of prohibiting the CMP corridor’s construction and of requiring the state legislature to approve future high-impact energy projects. By voting “no,” Mainers support the continuing the construction.
Adam R. Cote, the chief legal expert for the “Yes on 1” campaign, discussed the purpose of Question 1 with The Colby Echo. Cote’s initial justification for voting yes on Question 1 was purely legal.
“[Question 1] was written to reinforce the Constitutional requirement in Maine that the legislature needs to be involved when public land is sold or substantially altered,” he said.
Cote is referring to Article IX, Section 23 of the Maine State Constitution, which dictates that sales or alterations of “public lots” of land must be approved by a two-thirds majority of the legislature. The “Yes on 1” campaign argues that this section of Maine’s constitution was violated when the state legislature originally approved the CMP corridor.
From an environmental perspective, Cote’s reason for votng yes on Question 1 focused on the project’s inability to generate clean energy.
“This project does not add new clean generation in Maine. It essentially takes existing hydro generation in Canada and sells it at a higher price to buyers in Massachusetts,” he said.
The “Yes on 1’” campaign believes that the environmental justification for building the corridor and sending hydroelectric power to New England is weak. Instead of this project, they say, Maine should focus on clean energy projects in-state that can not only diversify our energy sources but also invigorate our local economies.
While the “Yes on 1” campaign appears to be pro-environment, it is difficult to look past its sources of funding. Its highest donor, Next Era Energy Resources LLC., is an electricity supplier based in Florida that owns and operates one of the largest natural gas-fired power plants in Maine. When asked about this inconsistency between stance and funding, Cote’s response was succinct.
“There [is] a broad coalition of folks who are opposed to the [CMP] corridor. Many pro-environmental groups such as the Sierra Club, Natural Resource Council, and others are opposed to the project because of environmental concerns. Furthermore, the top three donors for the “Yes on 1” campaign own and operate many clean energy, mainly solar and wind, utilities across the country,” he said.
While Question 1 has received support from Mainers across the state, there is significant opposition as well. Maine State Senator Trey Stewart spoke with The Colby Echo about the opposition to Question 1.
When asked about his primary opposition to Question 1, Stewart insisted that this ballot measure was not representative of the wishes of the people of Maine.
“This initiative is an attempt from the fossil fuel industry, mainly companies based out of Texas and Florida, to do whatever they can in a last-ditch effort to block a project that is going to be a serious competitor for them,” he said. “The displacement of fossil fuel with hydroelectric energy can cost them up to 1-3 million dollars a day.”
Stewart also believes that the project would have a net-positive impact on the state and its people. According to Stewart, the integration of clean energy into the New England grid would have a clear environmental benefit, despite the impact of clearcutting 50 miles of trees in Western Maine.
Another primary concern of the “No on 1” campaign is that Question 1 gives the Maine legislature retroactive powers over energy projects back to 2014. In Stewart’s view, this is a bad deal for business in Maine.
“Giving the legislature the ability to take action retroactively sends a signal to businesses that Maine is not open for your innovative projects, Maine doesn’t want to be a part of any clean future,” he said.
This highly contentious issue comes to the ballot on Nov. 2.
For sample ballots, visit waterville-me.gov/content/1381339042mainesampleballot.pdf
For voter registration information, visit maine.gov/sos/cec/elec/voter-info/votreg.html
For voting information, visit maine.gov/sos/cec/elec/data/data-pdf/votingplace1121.pdf
~ Raghav Suryanarayan `25