LePage made secret trip to Spain to meet with leaders of CMP's parent company
AUGUSTA â" Before heading to Iceland for a session of the Arctic Circle Assembly last week, Gov. Paul LePage flew to Spain to meet with leaders of the company that owns Central Maine Power.
Julie Rabinowitz, his press secretary, confirmed Monday that LePage met with Iberdrola last Tuesday.
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Rabinowitz said that LePage and Iberdrola executives âdiscussed ways to lower energy costs for Maine ratepayers, which has remained a priority for the governor since taking office.â
Gail Rice, a spokeswoman for Avangrid Inc., an Iberdrola subsidiary, said LePage and Iberdrola Chairman Ignacio Galan âhad a general conversation about opportunities to lower energy costs.â
âThis continues an ongoing conversation (that) has taken place in prior meetings,â she said, adding that Galan âhad been in the U.S. for a board meeting a month ago and asked to meet with the governor at that time, but unfortunately, the governor was not available.â
âThe governor was on international travel last week and asked to meet with Mr. Galan, and the schedules worked out,â Rice said.
LePageâs office disclosed Thursday that the governor was leading a delegation to the Arctic Circle Assembly in Reykjavik, Iceland. It made no mention of an earlier stop in Spain. It provided no information on who paid for the governorâs travel.
It is likely that at least part of the discussion between LePage and company leaders focused on a proposed 145-mile transmission line that CMP hopes to build through western Maine to serve the growing electrical needs of consumers in Massachusetts.
Sandra Howard, who leads a group of more than 4,000 opponents of the project, said she hopes LePage âexpressed to the executives of this foreign corporation in Spain that Mainers have serious concerns about this project.â
âNo amount of mitigation can offset the lasting impacts to our natural resources and tourist economy this will cause,â she said Monday.
Howard said her group âwould welcome the governor if he wanted to come and talk with us about the reasons for our opposition.â
âThe fact that the governor had to go to Spain to talk about this project shows that theyâre only interested in profits and not the people of Maine,â she said.
âWe hope the governor spoke to CMPâs owners in support of lower-cost alternatives like energy efficiency and solar, which can reduce those exorbitant costs,â said Dylan Voorhees, clean energy director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine.
Voorhees said that â time and again, Gov. LePage has supported CMP and fought against efficiency and solar, which are cleaner and cheaper for Mainers but cut into the companyâs profits.â
LePage has visited at least four foreign countries this year: Canada, Iceland, Spain and Montenegro.
He had planned to be part of a trade mission to the United Kingdom and Ireland last month, but had to skip it after experiencing what he called a âcardiac issueâ in late August.
Iberdrola, a public company that focuses on electrical supply, is based in Bilbao in the Basque region of northern Spain. It has subsidiaries around the world.
In 2015, Iberdrola USA and UIL Holdings Corp. closed on the Spanish firmâs $3 billion purchase of the Connecticut parent company of several local energy firms, including CMP. The combined company operates under the name Avangrid Inc.
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