The Maine Public Utilities Commission on Tuesday unanimously dismissed a complaint led by independent U.S. Senate candidate Max Linn of Bar Harbor to stop construction of the controversial Central Maine Power hydropower project, saying the complaint lacks merit.
Linn filed the 10-person complaint with the commission on Sept. 16 after threatening to sue Central Maine Power over the proposed $1 billion project through western Maine that would bring Quebec hydropower to the regional grid. He made the threat during a debate on Sept. 11 in Portland with Republican Sen. Susan Collins; Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport; and educator Lisa Savage.
The commission granted a key permit to CMP for the project in April 2019. Linn’s com plaint, which used a mechanism typically reserved for a group of citizens to address isolated issues with utilities, asked the three commissioners to not allow construction of the corridor to begin until the scenic and recreational costs the project would impose on the public are quantified and procedures are put in place to fully compensate the public.
But many of those issues had been addressed in earlier proceedings and Phil Bartlett, the commission’s chair, said the issues in the complaint could have been raised during public hearings held before the permit was granted. The two other commissioners agreed with him to dismiss the case.
“The final commission order cannot be attacked, reopened or relitigated under the guise of a 10-person complaint,” Bartlett said.
Construction on the CMP project is due to start later this year, Thorn Dickinson said earlier. He is president and CEO of NECEC Transmission LLC, a new company being set up to run the corridor project. He said the project is scheduled to go into commercial operation in December 2022.
The utilities commission, the Land Use Planning Commission and the Department of Environmental Protection already have supported the project. The project still needs a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers wetlands permit, an ISO New England section 1.3.9 approval and a U.S. Department of Energy presidential permit. An effort to get a citizens’ referendum on the Nov. 3 ballot to overturn the commission’s permit was deemed unconstitutional by the state’s highest court in early August, though opponents last month launched a second referendum bid aimed at the project.
Municipal approvals also may be required for construction of project components such as substations and transmission structures. The type and number of permits will vary, depending on location.