Judge vacates lease, jeopardizes transmission corridor

August 11, 2021 GMT

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — A Maine judge has vacated a lease of public land to Central Maine Power Co. for a 1-mile (1.6-kilometer) section of a planned 145-mile (233-kilometer) transmission corridor that could jeopardize the entire project.

Superior Court Justice Michaela Murphy ruled Tuesday that the agreement to lease the land was invalid because public land officials failed to make a required finding that the lease would result in no reduction or substantial alteration to the public lands.

Opponents of the corridor sued to object to the state’s lease to Central Maine Power of the publicly owned land in West Forks and Johnson Mountain, the Portland Press Herald reported. The 33-acre (13-hectare) tract of land is roughly 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) long and 300 feet (91 meters) wide.

The original lease was signed in 2014 and called for rent of $1,400 a year. The new lease signed last year called for $65,000 per year and included a provision that allowed Central Maine Power to transfer the lease to NECEC Transmission — the company tasked with building the corridor.

Murphy found that in neither case did the Bureau of Public Lands inform the public or the Legislature of the planned leases ahead of time. In addition, there was no indication that the bureau met a requirement to determine that the public land would not be reduced or its use substantially altered by the lease.

The head of NECEC said that the company is reviewing the decision to decide what the next steps are.