- Maine voters approved “Question 1” in the November ballot, in an effort to ban a 145-mile transmission line needed to carry Quebec hydropower to help meet clean energy goals from Massachusetts
- NextEra heavily funded a campaign to support the ban. The utility also refused to make any equipment upgrades that would be necessary for the interconnection of the project.
- NextEra’s PAC donated $ 10,000 to a black money group fighting another clean energy project in New England, an offshore wind project called Vineyard Wind. The black money group, “State Solutions,” spent more than $ 4,000 on Facebook ads against wind power in Maine.
- The utility’s opposition to a new clean power transmission and funding for the anti-wind Republican Governors Association is at odds with the company’s efforts to market itself as a leader in wind and clean energy. .
NextEra was the main funder of Mainers for Local Power, the group that spent $ 24.5 million to support a voting question approved by voters in Maine this week to ban a transmission line intended to carry clean energy from hydropower from Canada to Massachusetts.
“It is clear that over time new transmissions need to be built for this build,” said Rebecca Kujawa, CFO of NextEra, said earlier this year, referring to the renewable energy build needed for meet the Biden. government goals for clean energy and climate.
NextEra describes itself as “the world’s largest renewable energy generator from wind and sun” on its website, but in New England, this NextEra subsidiary’s generation portfolio is primarily fueled by oil and gas plants and gas stations located in Maine and Massachusetts; and the Seabrook nuclear plant in New Hampshire. NextEra’s 850 MW oil-fired power plant uses one of the dirtiest forms of power generation in the country.
Mainers for Local Power has received over $ 20 million from NextEra. Calpine Corp and Vistra Energy, which also own gas plants in the region, contributed about $ 2.7 million and $ 3 million respectively to the political action committee.
Maine voters dealt a blow to Massachusetts’ clean energy and climate change goals when they approved Question 1 by a wide margin. The ballot question is aimed at blocking the completion of a new transmission line called New England Clean Energy Connect by Central Maine Power (CMP).
Opposition to the project in Maine was driven largely by local distrust of CMP, which was fined $ 10 million last year for poor customer service, and fears that Benefits of a project that would impact 53 miles of North Woods in Maine while power flows largely to Massachusetts. Local environmental groups supported Question 1, and supporters of the poll question highlighted the CMP’s record in tackling rooftop solar power in Maine and the profits of the fossil fuel industry.
The problem turned into a $ 90 million political spending war that pitted CMP and Hydro-Quebec against NextEra, Calpine and Vistra, and left Maine inundated with misleading advertisements and claims. The fight is expected to continue, despite the outright rejection of the project by voters in Maine yesterday.
Mainers’ funding for local electricity is just one way NextEra blocks the completion of the new transmission line, and the $ 10,000 NextEra PAC contributed earlier this year to a group of black money behind the anti-wind ads that appeared in Mainers’ Facebook feeds raise new questions about NextEra’s connection to the attacks on clean energy projects in the state.
NextEra refuses to perform equipment upgrades at its Seabrook plant that would be necessary to complete the NECEC project
Regardless of the outcome of the ballot initiative, in order for the NECEC project to move forward, NextEra would also need to upgrade the breakers at the Seabrook utility plant. Avangrid, the parent company behind NECEC Transmission, filed a complaint with FERC on October 13, 2020 alleging that NextEra is blocking the project and protecting its revenue by slowing down necessary upgrades. Avangrid said it agreed to pay the costs associated with the circuit breakers, while NextEra maintained that the utility was not obligated to make the replacements, despite the interconnection system impact study determining that the replacements are necessary, according to a brief filed with FERC. by Avangrid last week.
NextEra’s Seabrook plant has also raised concerns among some members of Congress. Members Warren and Markey sent a letter to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission highlighting several serious safety concerns in May 2021.
NextEra asserted that it “did not refuse to replace the generation breaker; he simply did not agree to suffer a financial loss for the sole benefit of NECEC, ”according to a report from Utility Dive. NextEra added that “it is not trying to block the NECEC project or other clean energy projects,” but utility funding from Mainers for Local Power and links to the anti-wind ads are in. direct conflict with the company’s statement.
NextEra’s PAC Contributed $ 10,000 To A Black Money Group Behind Facebook Ads Against Wind Power In Maine
NextEra’s PAC donated $ 10,000 to State Solutions Inc., a 501 (c) (4) subsidiary of the Republican Governors Association (RGA), in March. The group is also called Make Ohio Great, according to its IRS profile. State Solutions ran several ads on Facebook earlier this year, spending more than $ 4,000 to attack Gov. Janet Mill’s plans to develop an offshore wind power project in Maine. The ads link to a story about fishermen on a fake news site hosted by RGA.
Former Republican Governor of Maine Paul LePage, who is considering a return to politics, and his 501 (c) (4) Maine People Before Politics, want to make current Democratic Governor of Maine Janet Mills support for development Limited offshore wind a problem in the next election.
NextEra is also a major contributor to the Republican Governors Association and contributed $ 500,000 to the RGA last year. RGA received a total of $ 4.8 million from utilities during the 2018 election cycle, of which $ 1.5 million came from NextEra Energy. State Solutions and RGA State Solutions Inc. have supported fossil fuel interests and utilities in other states and are not credible messengers for local interests. In 2017, State Solutions ran a different set of announcements in Virginia supporting the controversial and ultimately failed Atlantic Coast Pipeline project. Dominion Energy and Duke Energy spent $ 3.4 billion on the scuttled pipeline, according to a Washington Post report.
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Edit: A previous version of this article incorrectly named Vineyard Wind as the State Solutions Wind Project. The correct name for the wind project is New England Aqua Ventus.