How Transmission NIMBYs Cost Mainers Money

August 12, 2022

If we’re going to get this transition done, we’re going to have to talk about NIMBYs. Yes, I’m looking at you “greens”. Wake the eff up. You’re being played.
Case in point, a recent voter referendum in Maine turned down a much needed corridor that would have supplied green energy to much of New England. It lost in part due to huge financial pressure from a dark money group funded by a utility. Much of the negative argument boils down to “not in my back yard” sentiments.

Get over it, people. We’re going to have to pull together if we’re going to land this plane.

Mainewire:

Maine’s Supreme Court is set to rule any day now on an appeal of the referendum that passed last year blocking the continued construction of the New England Clean Energy Connect Corridor–a transmission corridor that would connect 1,200 megawatts of clean energy onto our power grid in Lewiston. 

In the months since the referendum, it has been increasingly common to hear Mainers express a form of buyer’s remorse when they look at their energy bills and say, “I voted for that referendum but now I think I made a mistake.”

Not long after the referendum vote, we learned that the price most of us pay for power, what’s called the standard offer, was going up by 83%. The sting from that sharp price increase was made worse in the months that followed as we watched the cost of gas, home heating oil, and just about everything else spike as well. Had Mainers not voted against the power line, it would have put downward pressure on future regional energy prices, bringing down the cost of electricity for everyone in New England. That’s a deal we should have taken last fall.

Today, as the Court considers whether the referendum rests on sound legal principles or not, it’s worth remembering that the primary opponents of the referendum were the out-of-state fossil fuel interests who are now making a windfall profit from that 83% increase. Chief among them was NextEra Energy, which donated more than $20,000,000 to the referendum campaign opposing the power line. Those profits aren’t reinvested in consumer programs or the power grid and they are not used to help our state transition to clean energy like our regulated utility companies do. It’s pure profit for companies like NextEra.

As it turns out, NextEra’s interference in the Maine referendum was not the first time they’ve been caught using their money to rig the outcome of public policy debates. In Florida, a series of newspaper investigations unveiled a pattern of interference in campaigns and elections that has now come under scrutiny as part of a criminal investigation. It seems that consultants working for NextEra recruited “ghost candidates” to run for the Florida Legislature – a scheme that would have placed non-existent candidates on the ballot to siphon votes away from elected officials they dislike. 

NextEra’s political consultants even recruited a candidate with the same name as an existing candidate and got him on the ballot. This caused enough confusion among voters to flip that seat NextEra’s way. These political consultants were able to flip three Senate seats with these tactics. Now at least one of the ghost candidates admitted he was bribed to run.

The ghost candidate scheme now appears to be only the tip of the iceberg in Florida. In Jacksonville, a journalist who wrote critically of a NextEra company found himself being spied on. Meanwhile those NextEra consultants behind the ghost candidates acquired a Florida news outlet and then posed as journalists to dish out dirt on NextEra’s critics. And separately, when a State Senator proposed new legislation that could eat into the profits of a NextEra company, theirCEO fired off an email saying “I want you to make his life a living hell….seriously.” 

While this behavior has begun to catch up with NextEra in Florida, there is some evidence they employed similar tactics here in Maine to oppose the Clean Energy Corridor. The Maine Ethics Commission is still conducting its investigation into Stop the Corridor, a dark money LLC linked to NextEra that has funneled untold millions into Maine opposing the corridor. They have also openly used their market position to delay clean energy development by refusing to upgrade critical breaker equipment at their Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant.

I am hopeful that justice is coming. Just last month a leading investment firm downgraded NextEra’s stock, citing growing media scrutiny of Florida Power and Light’s lobbying practice, and last week a Member of Congress from Florida wrote to the U.S. Department of Justice requesting an investigation into “apparent corruption.”

No one knows how Maine’s Supreme Court will rule on the constitutionality of the referendum campaign against the corridor, but I think it is high time all Mainers know the truth about the anti-corridor campaign and the forces behind it. 

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7 Responses to “How Transmission NIMBYs Cost Mainers Money”

  1. Brent Jensen-Schmidt Says:

    Hear hear and right on, again. The big villains are entrenched interests, however:

    A little thought will show (most) ‘individual rights’, that are against group obligations, are inherently selfish. Also remember the individual is a member of the group too. Sorting the problem is a can of snake worms, especially in a ‘democracy’. Meanwhile the consequences is a buggared world.

  2. Ron Benenati Says:

    thoughts?

  3. John Oneill Says:

    New England’s attempts to rely on Hydro-Quebec’s surplus power, in preference to its own home-grown zero-emission nuclear, could come back to bite it. Hydro-Quebec itself states ‘Electricity that Hydro‑Québec Distribution does not use is often referred to as “surplus”as well. More specifically, this is the heritage pool electricity the division has access to but does not require to meet the needs of Quebecers, primarily during the summer months. However, we anticipate that all of
    this surplus will be needed in the coming years to meet Québec’s growing demand..’ Quebec uses a lot of power for heating, and will not export it in winter at the expense of its own population. It is also, like other places, planning to decarbonise its transport. Nuclear in the New England grid has been providing ten times as much power as wind, and will not be subject to the same price pressures as natural gas. Liquefied natural gas exports are starting to equalise the US with the much more lucrative European and Asian markets. Over the last year, gas made 55% of New England’s power, nuclear 20%, and wind 2%.
    John O’Neill

    • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

      AIUI, the Hydro-Quebec/New England project was a dual-direction power shift where Quebec would take super-cheap excess PV/wind power (saving its store of hydro power) and return power when RE was low. That is, hydro would take advantage of its energy-storage attribute.

      It would help to know the cost, age, and contractual* setup for all power plants in a region.

      BTW, here’s the “Approved” generator interconnection queue for ISO-New England, where I see only one one offshore wind plant in the pipe (1200 net MW):
      https://irtt.iso-ne.com/reports/external?AspxAutoDetectCookieSupport=1

      ________
      *Are utilities required to buy at a fixed price, who pays for cost and schedule overruns, etc.

  4. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    I wonder whether burying transmission lines would reduce the NIMBY factor and maintain the taxable home values enough to cover the extra cost (with or without considering lower long-term maintenance costs).


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