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Governor LePage Again Calls for Canadian Electricity to Flow to Maine

Maine Governor Paul LePage made another public appeal for bringing more electricity from Eastern Canada down into New England. LePage spoke at an energy conference in Boston, calling for movement on the construction of high voltage transmission lines and other infrastructure needed to help lower the region's high energy costs, and stem the loss of jobs.

It's a recurring theme for Governor LePage, who told residents of Newport on Tuesday night that he has teamed up with the Governors of Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut to strive for two important goals. First, to bring more natural gas to Maine.

"And try to get a critical mass of the citizens of all those four states to demand that our legislature lower the cost of electricity and you can do that by buying low cost hydro electricity and getting away from solar because it doesn't shine much during a snowstorm, it doesn't shine when its raining and twelve hours a day its dark." LePage says.

And Quebec Premier Phillippe Couillard, also a prominent guest at today's New England-Canada Business Council conference, told WBUR in Boston that the province is willing to oblige requests for electricity from the region.

"The emphasis put on renewable energy both by my colleagues in New England, but also by the President's recent announcement on climate change make it ideal I think to increase our market share in New England as far as hydroelectricity is concerned," Couillard says.

And Canada is now adding extra hydro capacity with a number of sites around the country. But a major obstacle for LePage and other New England governors, who see Canadian imports as a way to reduce the high costs of energy in the region -- is infrastructure. Proposals for high-voltage transmission lines from Canada, have run up against opposition from environmental groups, including the Conservation Law Foundation, who argue imported Hydro power is not the best long-term solution for the region, or for the planet. Greg Cunningham, Director of the group's Clean Energy and Climate Change program, says transmission lines have impacts on local communities. And most importantly, says Cunningham, its important to ask whether investment in imported hydro will come at the expense of the region's renewable energy industry:

"Hydro is going to be and needs to be part of the solution the question is, are we formulating it appropriately to ensure that we maximize the benefits and minimize the negative impacts," says Cunningham.

Including, says Cunningham, big hydro's carbon footprint. But Quebec Premier Phillippe Couillard says pollution concerns have been overstated, and that while there may be a temporary increase in emissions during the first five or six years after the construction of a new hydro dam.

"Evidence shows that in the long term over the life cycle of the projects, a large hydro electric project has the same carbon footprint as a solar or windfarm," Couillard says.

At Friday's conference, LePage noted that the state of Maine had lowered its emissions by 30 percent, but only because much of the state's industrial base has disappeared.

The New England Coalition for Affordable Energy, comprised mostly of business groups and utilities industry unions, estimates that The lack of adequeate infrastructure have cost consumers in the region about $7.5 billion in higher electricity costs over the past three years.