Friday, May 13 2022

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court was scheduled to hear arguments Tuesday on a pair of cases centered on the high-profile project.

PORTLAND, Maine — A stalled billion-dollar energy corridor aimed at bringing Canadian hydropower to the New England power grid could be revitalized — or boosted for good — by the state’s high court.

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court was scheduled to hear arguments Tuesday on a pair of cases centered on the high-profile project.

The utilities behind the effort have filed a lawsuit to overturn a November statewide referendum on constitutional grounds. Another lawsuit involves a lease allowing transmission cables to cross a 1-mile segment of state land.

Funded by Massachusetts taxpayers, the New England Clean Energy Connect would provide up to 1,200 megawatts of Canadian hydroelectricity. That’s enough electricity for 1 million homes.

Critics have argued that the environmental benefits are overstated and that it would change forest land forever.

Proponents say bold projects are needed to tackle climate change and that electricity is needed in a region heavily reliant on natural gas, which can lead to spikes in winter energy costs.

RELATED: New Transmission Line Would Connect Northern Maine Clean Energy Projects to New England Grid

Most of the proposed 145-mile (233-kilometer) power transmission would be built along existing corridors, but a new 53-mile (85-kilometer) section must be cut through the woods to reach the Canadian border.

Central Maine Power’s parent company and Hydro Quebec teamed up on the project, and workers were already downing trees and laying poles when the governor called for a halt to work after Mainers voiced his disapproval in a statewide referendum. A state regulator then suspended the license, but that decision can be overturned depending on the outcome of the litigation.

RELATED: Environmental groups call on Maine to suspend energy project

Utilities argue that the referendum was unconstitutional because it retroactively canceled a project that had been duly authorized by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, Maine Planning Commission, Public Utilities Commission of Maine and the US Army Corps of Engineers.

A second case arose after a judge challenged a lease for a 1-mile stretch of the corridor on state land.

More stories on the Maine News Center

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