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Maine, New Brunswick ink accord to cooperate on electricity links

Feb 9, 2007 The Associated Press

The leaders of Maine and New Brunswick agreed Friday to explore ways to enhance cooperative efforts to expand their electrical interconnections.

Gov. John Baldacci and Premier Shawn Graham signed a memorandum of understanding that lays out a timeline for such cooperation.

The electricity agreement came as Maine has been looking at the possibility of leaving the New England power grid and establishing power-swapping arrangements with neighboring provinces in Canada.

"Both Premier Graham and I have the privilege of living in communities rich in natural resources, like wind and tidal energy, that can generate emission-free electricity," Baldacci said.

"We also both produce an electricity surplus and want to ensure that we pay competitive prices for electricity," he said.

Baldacci said that despite Maine's surplus, it has been forced to shoulder the burden of transmission and capacity costs for other New England states.

He said that because of inequities in the current arrangement with power grid manager ISO New England, he has a responsibility to think beyond the six-state region and look to Maine's neighbors to the north.

A study by the Public Utilities Commission found no legal, economic or technical barriers to pursuing an electricity partnership with New Brunswick as an alternative.

Baldacci said the partnership's emphasis on developing an expanded clean energy market could help curb global warming by reducing carbon pollution.

Graham said the agreement positions New Brunswick as an energy hub for Atlantic Canada and New England.

Construction began in November on a 345-megawatt transmission line to improve New Brunswick's ability to export electricity to the United States. That line is in addition to an existing 700-megawatt line that's about 30 years old.

The provincial utility NB Power is planning to spend $1.5-billion to refurbish the existing Point Lepreau nuclear power plant, and the New Brunswick government has announced it will study the feasibility of building a second reactor.

The memorandum of understanding set a deadline of June 1 to complete an overview of the study and of Jan. 1 to present a final report to the state and provincial governments.