Letter to the Editor: Mills is wrong to try to Eco-balance

6 mins read

What a total disappointment that the Mills administration has opted to follow the same old model of compromising the health of Maine’s environment away. This is called eco-balancing and it employs the notion that CMP’s offer to provide $248 million over 40 years will provide a benefit that is equal to or greater than the negative impacts of the 150 mile transmission line that will deliver “dirty power” from Quebec Hydro.

Mainers should be outraged that CMP is calling Hydro-Quebec power clean renewable power. (simply a lie – beyond fake news) I have visited the source of this power in Northern Quebec. It is a land of utter destruction. Rivers have been reversed and drained in order to create vast power head reservoirs. Thousands of square acres of forests have been destroyed, subsistent Native Canadian hunting and fishing grounds have been submerged, and thousands of caribou drowned. The once mighty Churchill Falls is nothing but a trickle. Canada seems to have ignored the lessons of landscape scale dam construction. More dam construction is planned for northern Quebec and Labrador. Buying this power will only encourage more dam construction.

The horrific landscape destruction, the clear cutting, the creation of flood basins and building of transmission lines all reduce carbon sequestration. In addition, the flooded areas have become huge methane (30 times more potent as a greenhouse gas) emitters from the anaerobic decay of massive amounts of detritus and soil organic compounds. When CMP and Hydro-Quebec say that this project will reduce carbon emissions the equivalent of 280,000 vehicles – it is totally a distortion of the truth. This energy is not clean energy. If allowed to transit Maine, it will mar permanently the Maine forest landscape.

Janet Mills is right when she says “we cannot afford to do nothing,” but what she doesn’t seem to understand is that if we are serious about mitigating climate change, authorizing a transmission line that will destroy Maine’s forest and deliver greenhouse gas producing power to Massachusetts is not the answer. For too long, the status quo has been to deal in trade offs. Every time the environment is compromised there is one half less of healthy ecosphere left. Take the number 1, cut it in half what is left, one half, continue this process just 10 times and only 1/1024 is left. There is no room for compromising anymore – we have lost so much already.

Yes, investing in heat pump technology makes sense as does expanding the use of electric vehicles, but this needs to be accomplished, not as a trade off, but as a legislative action. As far as money for Franklin County communities and the offer of lower electric rates, these are just out and out bribes. In fact, if we are serious about climate change, we should not encourage more electrical consumption by offering lower rates. On the contrary we should be investing in ways to reduce consumption.

The truth be told there is no turning back from the ongoing catastrophic crisis of climate change. We have passed the tipping point and it is virtually impossible to reverse the oncoming changes. What we can do is make intelligent decisions to mitigate more extreme impacts and invest in adaption and survival strategies. The CMP corridor now being endorsed by Mills is taking us in completely the wrong direction.

Study after study has shown that the cheapest and best way to reduce carbon emissions is to protect forests. Over the last several decades there has been an effort to quantify the value of non-market goods and services provided by forests annually – this is often called natural capital. Natural capital’s currency included all ecological service: carbon sequestration, disease regulation, water filtration and purification, flood control, pollinator habitat, nutrient recycling, pest control, soil erosion prevention, air filtration, shade and cooling, and soil formation. Generally speaking half of the natural capital value of forests are related to carbon sequestration and storage in both trees and soils. The other half of the natural capital value is driven by ecological services related to air purification, water quality and water storage (TD Economics & Nature Conservancy of Canada, 2017)

Mills is wrong if she thinks allowing and supporting the destruction of forests in the production and distribution of electricity is sound policy. Her decision to employ the notion of eco-balancing is flawed and will only exacerbate the climate change crisis.

It is not too late for her to reverse course. We must encourage her to think clearly.

Jonathan Carter
Dir. Forest Ecology Network
Former Green Party Candidate for Governor
Lexington Township

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  1. Heat pumps are a joke. Nothing more than glorified space heaters. A single furnace heats an entire house, a single heat pump, heats an entire room(not really). and most heat pumps only work at above freezing temperatures, not good if you live in Maine where the average winter temp is 20 or below. And with the damage to people’s light bills will tell people that using the oil furnace is cheaper. We tried to heat a 4000sqft house using nothing but heat pumps, we bought 4 of them at $1300 a piece + installation, about $8000 when all was said and done, each rated for 1500sqft, they turned a $200 light bill into a $486 light bill, and didn’t even heat the place to 40 degrees on the warmest of the cold days. We said to hell with them and bought a whole house furnace for $1500 and had it installed for $500 to the existing baseboard heaters. If the average home is 1500sqft two heat pumps should be sufficient, they will cost about $2800 a year, more than likely more because they are so inefficient at a mere 6% so you will need one in every window or two on every wall vs an oil furnace’s 85% and $3000 a year run cost. Wood is the cheapest at $1200 a year but the efficiency is only 68%. So if you use heat pumps, you will be using electricity, that comes from fossil fuels, and instead of burning a fossil fuel in the source of heat, you will be burning money, lots of it.

  2. HB, Jonathan said ” investing in heat pump technology “. Heat pumps have evolved and will continue ( IMO )
    BUT, everyone I have asked that has heat pumps ( me included ) agrees with you as far as their heating capabilities.
    I will give you my numbers and efficiency opinion.
    We heat ( condition, more like it ) one room furthest from the wood stove with a heat pump. It keeps it about 68*f ( that is being generous ) without having it maxed out. That adds about 20.00 per month in electric. We run it almost constantly the only time I shut it down is when it goes below zero.
    In the summer it cools the whole house ( not a very hot house without ) with the option of closing the one room and having it chilly, for the same 20.00~30.00 per month. The whole house is only 1000sq.’ and basically 3 rooms. Insulated, but could be better.
    Wood for me is the way to go, I love the heat and have the time to tend to it. We have the time and resources to cut our own wood. When we can’t it will still be my choice. Of course this is not practical for everyone.
    We also have a Rinnai in the other room away from the stove ( next to room with heat pump ). We run that when it gets -5f or lower intermittently when needed. With propane cooking range and that heater we burned 30 gallons of propane this winter.
    I am quite frugal ( ok, a cheapskate ) but I also like being warm and walking around my house in t-shirt and shorts.
    I certainly agree, like solar, the shiny pamphlets are very misleading.
    Sorry you had to find out the hard way.
    I have heard the geothermal heat pumps heat a little better but the cost is much more also. ( I have no hands on experience with those )

  3. Hello, I am from New Brunswick, I have been looking at all the previous statements, I would like to put my two cents in.
    I have always have been interested in Heat Pumps, we as a child burnt wood as a central furnace heat source,
    installed in 1979 we had a heat pump installed at a great price to this system of 25,000+ that could supply heat down to 0 degrees Celsius.
    As an adult, I was part of a group that distributed domestic hot water heat pumps in 2007-2009 though out Atlantic Canada. We where on the edge of what heat pumps could do for us, as a culture, pushing into new frontiers, many investigating theories where explored, by my self and the parent company NYLE.of Bangor Maine.
    I know first hand that oil heat is the easiest and cheapest to install, the least complicated, compared to the yearly work of wood and complexity of heat pump tech, What i can tell you is this, we have been trying to use renewables like wind, hydro dam, and solar to produce electicity, and to that end. The less you use the less you need to pay for.
    In New Brunswick, I am paying 10.+ CENTS/ KWH. THIS PRICE IS CONSTANTLY GOING UP.
    Mostly due to the cost of infrastructure to support sending energy created here outside our country to yours.for higher profits to the utility, that is supposed to be publicly owned, N.B.power.
    We have two main sources currently a nuclear plant at point Lapro. and Hydro from northern Quebec.
    COAL was as well as oil (diesel generators ) used to back up during peak periods.
    Water is constant in Canada as well as wind, solar not so much. And yes we have trees, the Transmission of energy is the greatest tragedy of all, line losses are inherent and longer the distance the greater the losses.
    What would I like to see, As a Canadian, let us use our own energy, to the most productive and safe way for the environment as possible, and please make your own? and at the same time use your own water and resources inside your borders as well as food, and trees for lumber, and potash for crops, and aluminum and steel.
    The economies of both our nations are driving exports and the people are suffering because of the greed of the governments and a few of the richest, not the masses. AND the planet.
    Without a change in how all things are done fundamentally, there will never be equality and balance of the Economies and Climate Change Challenges we all must face.
    P.S. HEAT PUMPS now can be totally solar powered. and off-grid and even battery backed up for power outages due to grey outs and storms. They can now operate in all temperatures and now heat water and air.
    Education is the key, how we use it is the power to turn that key. THANK YOU. Kier Mizuik

  4. I found a lot of this and the comments informative. But with regard to Jonathan’s statement—

    “ In fact, if we are serious about climate change, we should not encourage more electrical consumption by offering lower rates. On the contrary we should be investing in ways to reduce consumption.”

    If Maine is going to address climate change by shifting from fossil fuel reliance to electrical power for transportation, heating and cooling, I don’t see how consumption-reduction of electricity is going to be possible without shrinking the state’s economy and quality of life, and without turning our politics even more toxic.

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