Judge: Construction can continue on most of $1B corridor

September 17, 2021 GMT

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Construction on a 145-mile (233-kilometer) electricity transmission corridor in western Maine can continue while litigation proceeds over a 1-mile section that was leased by the state, a state Supreme Court justice ruled.

Another judge previously vacated a lease of public land to Central Maine Power for a 1-mile (1.6-kilometer) section, and critics asked the Supreme Judicial Court to halt all construction until it’s settled by the courts.

In a ruling dated Wednesday, Supreme Court Justice Joseph Jabar denied the motion by opponents of the $1 billion project and allowed construction to continue on all portions except for the leased section.

Wrangling continues over the New England Clean Energy Connect even though the project has been approved by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Maine Department of Environmental Protection, Maine Land Use Planning Commission and Maine Public Utilities Commission.

Last month, a judge put the project in question by ruling that the state lease for a small section was invalid because of procedures that were used. That decision is being appealed to the state Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, a referendum aimed at spiking the project is on the November ballot. If approved, there would likely be another lawsuit over the constitutionality of the referendum question.

The transmission line would provide a conduit for up to 1,200 megawatts of Canadian hydropower, reducing greenhouse emissions and stabilizing energy costs in New England, supporters say.

Much of it follows existing utility corridors but a new section is being cut through 53 miles (85 kilometers) of woods to reach the Canadian border.

The project, which would be fully funded by Massachusetts ratepayers to meet the state’s clean energy goals, calls for construction of a high-voltage power line from Mount Beattie Township on the Canadian border to the regional power grid in Lewiston, Maine.