Maine voters approve ballot measures, including transmission corridor initiative and right to food amendment

Voters in Maine approved each of the three measures on the ballot for Nov. 2, 2021.  As of 8:30am EST on Wednesday, 89% of precincts had reported results. Question 1 received 59% of the vote. It was designed to prohibit the construction of electric transmission lines defined as high-impact in the Upper Kennebec Region, including the New England Clean Energy Connect (NECEC). Question 2 received 72% of the vote. It authorized $100 million in general obligation bonds for transportation infrastructure projects. Question 3 received 61% of the vote. It established a state right to growing, raising, harvesting, and producing food, as long as an individual does not commit trespassing, theft, poaching, or abuses to private land, public land, or natural resources.

Question 1 prohibited the construction of high-impact electric transmission lines in the Upper Kennebec Region, retroactive to Sept. 16, 2020, thus prohibiting Segment 1 of NECEC. Segment 1 was permitted to begin construction on May 13, 2021. The NECEC is a 145-mile long, high-voltage transmission line project that would transmit around 1,200 megawatts from hydroelectric plants in Quebec to electric utilities in Massachusetts and Maine. The ballot initiative also required a two-thirds vote of each state legislative chamber to approve high-impact electric transmission lines. 

Question 1 saw $98.41 million raised between supporters and opponents. According to the Bangor Daily News, Question 1 was the most expensive ballot measure in Maine history, and the second most expensive political election after the $200 million U.S. Senate race in 2020.

No CMP Corridor led the campaign in support of Question 1. The PACs Mainers for Local Power and NRCM Yes on Question 1 were also registered to support the ballot initiative. Together, the PACs had raised $27.64 million, including $20.20 million from NextEra Energy Resources, LLC, which owned a natural gas-fired plant in Cumberland, Maine, and six solar fields or projects in southern and central Maine; $3.61 million from Vistra Energy Corp., which owned a natural gas-fired plant in Veazie, Maine; and $3.26 million from Calpine Corp., which owned a natural gas-fired plant in Westbrook, Maine.

Clean Energy Matters, Hydro-Québec Maine Partnership, Vote No to Protect Maine, and Mainers for Fair Laws were registered to oppose the ballot initiative. Together, the PACs had raised $70.77 million, including $48.45 million from Central Maine Power (CMP), NECEC Transmission LLC, and the companies’ parent firm Avangrid; and $19.94 million from H.Q. Energy Services (U.S.) Inc., which was a subsidiary of Hydro-Québec.

Question 1 had the support of the Natural Resources Council of Maine and Sierra Club Maine, along with Calpine Corp., NextEra Energy Resources, and Vistra Energy Corp. Question 1 was opposed by Gov. Janet Mills (D), former Gov. Paul LePage (R), U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm, the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, and the supporting companies.

Additional reading: