Matt Wagner of Knox attends a rally after supporters of "No CMP Corridor" submitted signatures to election officials in Augusta, Maine, Monday, Feb. 3, 2020. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / AP

Hearings on an appeal of a key permit for Central Maine Power’s hydropower corridor were postponed because half of the Maine Board of Environmental Protection is either sick with or has been exposed to COVID-19, according to a Monday notice.

The two-day appeal set for Tuesday and Wednesday would have considered a challenge from project rivals including the Natural Resources Council of Maine to a Maine Department of Environmental Protection site permit they claim does not meet Maine’s environmental laws.

It is one of many challenges of the project still pending, but it could be rendered effectively moot if Maine’s high court upholds a 2021 referendum blocking the project. The permit challenge has been awaiting a final decision for two years.

The appeals set for hearings at the University of Maine Farmington will likely be pushed to late June due to the illnesses and exposures, Board of Environmental Protection Executive Analyst William Hinkel told parties on Monday. The chair of the board, Mark Draper, had authorized a hybrid remote meeting, but he is unable to run it in person due to illness, Hinkel said.

COVID-19 cases have been climbing steadily in recent days as a more contagious version of the omicron variant circulates. It has caused hospitalizations to nearly double in recent weeks.