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TNC in Maine Statement on the Maine Department of Environmental Protection Decision to Permit the New England Clean Energy Connect Project

The view from Number 5 Mountain in Leuthold Preserve.
Maine Forest: The view from Number 5 Mountain in Leuthold Preserve. © Ian Patterson

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) provided extensive testimony in the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) hearings on the proposed New England Clean Energy Connect (NECEC) transmission project. Our witnesses explained why the NECEC project proposed by the applicant would have unreasonable impacts and adverse effects on Maine’s natural resources and should only be permitted if it were substantially modified in ways that avoid, minimize, and compensate for its habitat fragmentation impacts. The scale of the proposed project is unprecedented for the region and would result in fragmentation of highly connected, globally significant wildlife habitat, cross more than 200 streams and impact hundreds of acres of wetlands.

Given the DEP’s decision to approve permits for the proposed NECEC project, we appreciate that approval is conditioned on several measures to address habitat fragmentation. These measures include requiring the applicant to reduce habitat impacts within the transmission line right-of-way, permanently conserve 40,000 acres to improve habitat connectivity and conserve mature forests in western Maine, and establish a stream connectivity restoration fund.

TNC encouraged DEP to further strengthen these measures by requiring fee purchase of lands for conservation management or expanding acreages to be conserved with easements, as well as independent monitoring of tapered areas and wildlife crossing areas to ensure compliance with the permit conditions. Nonetheless, the conditions required by the DEP recognize the importance of connected and resilient landscapes and represent meaningful steps toward mitigating NECEC’s habitat fragmentation impacts, should the project be constructed.

The NECEC project proposes to provide transmission of low-carbon energy from large-scale hydropower dams in Quebec, including several either under construction or built in the past decade. Tackling climate change is of the utmost urgency for The Nature Conservancy, and there is substantial need for additional sources of low-carbon energy in New England to meet greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals. At the same time, given the economic, social and environmental costs of large-scale hydropower dams, these projects are not being built in the U.S. today. According to TNC analysis, global renewable energy goals can be met without building hydropower dams on the world’s remaining free-flowing rivers, which are vital for fish and wildlife, as well as for commercial and subsistence fisheries and the communities that depend on them.

All energy sources have impacts. As states take essential action to reduce emissions, we encourage regional planning and prioritization of renewable energy sources that minimize impacts on people and nature. TNC will continue working in Maine, Massachusetts, and across the region to strengthen environmental and energy laws to ensure responsible and well-sited renewable energy development.

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 79 countries and territories, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.