The construction of a $1 billion transmission project can resume after jurors sided with developers in state court in April.
A jury heard complicated testimony about construction schedules and constitutional rights for the transmission project, and concluded that developers had a constitutional right to proceed despite being rebuked by state voters in a referendum.
The victory for Central Maine Power’s parent company and Hydro Quebec meant that construction of the project, which started in January 2021, could resume.
On Tuesday, Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Melanie Loyzim notified corridor developers that construction may resume, under certain conditions. It is not clear when construction efforts will get underway.
Avangrid and its subsidiary, CMP, won the bid from Massachusetts in February 2018 for their $950 million joint project with Hydro-Quebec to bring 1,200 megawatts of transmission capacity through a 145-mile transmission line from the Canadian border to Lewiston. The project, called the New England Clean Energy Connect, is being run by NECEC Transmission, an Avangrid subsidiary. The project has obtained all major permits.
CMP and Avangrid had been engaged in more than five years of legal challenges and efforts to secure public and regulatory approvals. Avangrid and NECEC Transmission said in the lawsuit challenging the referendum’s validity that they had spent almost $450 million before the project was stopped, or more than 40 percent of its total estimated cost. They also said 122 miles, or 80 percent, of the right-of-way for the project had been cleared.
The project was suspended in November 2021 following a state referendum, in which a majority of Maine voters moved to block construction. But Maine’s high court in August found that the part of the referendum that retroactively prohibited the corridor infringed on CMP’s rights to build it. It referred the matter to the business court to determine whether and the extent to which CMP and its allies had vested rights to the project before it was halted.
BDN writer Lori Valigra contributed to this report.