Gov. Janet Mills said she hopes the courts will quickly address whether Central Maine Power can continue construction on a transmission line through western Maine. Opponents of the New England Clean Energy Connect, meanwhile, are pressing the Mills administration to force CMP to stop all work on the corridor following voters’ decisive rejection of the project on Tuesday.
Mills was a vocal supporter of the 145-mile transmission line that will enable Hydro-Quebec to sell electricity to Massachusetts. But Mills, who is a former attorney general, deferred to the courts when asked Thursday about CMP’s continued work on the corridor after nearly 60% of Maine voters rejected the project by approving Question 1 on Tuesday’s ballot.
CMP’s parent company, Avangrid, filed a legal challenge of the initiative in Maine Superior Court on Wednesday.
“I trust and hope that the courts will arrive at an independent judgement, objective and independent judgment about that matter,” Mills said. “I think people really want to get this behind them. People are sick of seeing the ads on TV from all sides, from both sides, and I hope that the courts will act expeditiously in putting the matter to rest one way or the other.”
The Natural Resources Council of Maine and other corridor opponents petitioned the Maine Department of Environmental Protection on Thursday to order CMP to halt further construction and cutting of vegetation because of the referendum. On Friday evening, DEP Commissioner Melanie Loyzim notified CMP and corridor project leaders that she will hear arguments from both sides on whether the project’s license should be suspended or revoked because of the results of Question 1.
In effect, Loyzim is expanding the scope of an existing regulatory proceeding focused on whether to suspend or revoke the license for the New England Clean Energy Connect project because of a dispute over of a tiny portion of the 145-mile corridor. In August, a Superior Court judge vacated a lease granted to CMP for a one-mile stretch of the corridor that passes through two state-owned lots near The Forks.
The judge ruled that the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands had failed to fully consider the impact of the lease on the state-owned lots. Maine’s Constitution requires legislative approval of any leases found to have an adverse impact on state-owned lands.
Loyzim said Friday that she will now consider both the lease dispute and the effects of Tuesday’s referendum in deciding whether to suspend or revoke the project’s license.
In a statement, Mills spokeswoman Lindsay Crete said the governor the DEP “will reach an independent conclusion based on the merits of the briefs and existing law.”
“This legal process exists to ensure that all sides are fairly considered in a manner that is free from political interference,” Crete said. “The Governor respects this process, and, to ensure its integrity, independence, and fairness, she will not place her finger on the scale in either direction. The Mills Administration will continue to pursue all opportunities to advance clean energy infrastructure in Maine to lower the cost of energy, reduce our reliance on out-of-state fossil fuels, protect our environment, and strengthen our economy.”
This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.