PORTLAND, Maine ( Associated Press) — The Maine Department of Environmental Protection’s Citizens Board on Thursday dismissed the latest attempt to delay or kill a $1 billion power line, and the next hurdle for the project lies with the state’s Supreme Court.
The Maine Department of Environmental Protection’s Citizens Board declined Thursday to revoke a permit for a power line to serve as a conduit for Canadian hydropower to access the New England power grid.
The Environmental Protection Board unanimously upheld the permit for the $1 billion project, but required certain conditions, including the preservation of an additional 10,000 acres of land to compensate for the loss of wildlife habitat due to construction in western Maine.
Proponents say the project will remove carbon from the environment and stabilize energy costs in a region that relies heavily on natural gas for energy. Opponents said the environmental benefits were enormous, and that the project would destroy the woodlands.
Maine’s Natural Resources Council, a major competitor to the project, expressed disappointment with the results.
Environmental group interim CEO Pete Didysheim said after the vote that he expected the state Supreme Court to uphold a referendum in which Mainers voted to reject the project.
“The next important action will come from the court of law,” he said. “We hope they uphold the will of the Maine people to end this project.”
Central Main Power’s parent company and Hydro Quebec teamed up in Massachusetts on the Ratepayers-funded New England Clean Energy Connect, which would supply up to 1,200 megawatts of Canadian hydropower to the regional power grid.
Most of the proposed 145-mile (233-kilometre) power transmission line would follow the existing corridor, but a new 53-mile (85-kilometre) section was needed to reach the Canadian border.
The Maine Department of Environmental Protection already approved the project in 2020, and many trees were cleared and poles erected after it was signed along with other regulators.
But DEP commissioner Melanie Loyzim halted the project after a referendum, and the civic board was required to hear appeals for the original permits brought by opponents.
Opponents have demanded an outright or delayed completion of the project. The project’s developers argue that if delays continue late into the summer, they will miss a contractual deadline with Massachusetts utilities, resulting in costly penalties.
Meanwhile, the state Supreme Court is expected to rule on the two lawsuits in the coming weeks. The court is considering the constitutionality of the referendum and the validity of a lease that allows a small section of a power line to cross state land.