The power company asked a state court Wednesday to reject plans for a Nov. 3 statewide public vote on the controversial project.
Avangrid Networks asked a state court Wednesday to block state officials from putting a referendum on the November ballot that could overturn the 2019 decision by regulators to allow the construction of a controversial 145-mile hydropower transmission line from Quebec to Lewiston.
The suit, filed in Cumberland County, argues the referendum would be unconstitutional because it tramples on the rights of regulators, legislators, judges and other officials to weigh the issues involved in the proposed $950 million New England Clean Energy Connect project and reach a conclusion.
Allowing a public vote to overrule the green light given by regulators would “explode, blow up, destroy an administrative process” that carefully looked into every aspect of the project, Tony Buxton, counsel for the Industrial Energy Consumers’ Group, said Wednesday.
Buxton, who represents some of the largest electricity users in Maine, said it is critical to rely on science and facts rather than popular emotions........................................
Thorn Dickinson, the chief executive officer and president of NECEC Transmission, an Avangrid subsidiary which is overseeing the project, said Wednesday that the referendum would undercut the long administrative process that led to the Public Utilities Commission’s May 3, 2019, decision to grant it a certificate of public convenience and necessity, a key step in the approval process.
Allowing voters to vote on that decision, he said, would set “an incredibly dangerous precedent” that would make anyone eyeing future projects in Maine approach them warily at best.
“If this referendum is put on the ballot,” Dickinson said, any governmental decision could be overturned arbitrarily after it has been made, effectively gutting the whole point of the administrative process created by the Legislature.
Sue Ely, an attorney who serves as the climate and clean energy advocate for the Natural Resources Council of Maine, said there’s not much merit to the lawsuit.
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Kristin Muszynski, a spokesperson for Dunlap, said the secretary of state’s office does not comment on pending litigation.
The controversial $1 billion project, which will bring hydropower from Canada through western Maine, already has approval from the Maine Public Utilities Commission, the Land Use Planning Commission and the Department of Environmental Protection. It still needs approvals from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, ISO New England and the U.S. Department of Energy. ISO New England is the organization that runs the region’s electric grid
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