While backers applaud the draft permit for the $1 billion transmission line to bring electricity from Quebec to Massachusetts, opponents say the project would provide "no verifiable reduction in greenhouse gases."
By Scott Thistle Staff Writer
Central Maine Power Co.’s plan to build a transmission line through western Maine’s mountains cleared a significant hurdle Friday when the Maine Department of Environmental Protection issued a draft permit for the $1 billion project.
The initial approval puts significant conditions on the project to limit its impacts, in one instance decreasing the width of the corridor to nearly one-third of what the company had requested.
In announcing the order, the DEP said in a statement that its approval “requires an unprecedented level of environmental and natural resource protection in the permitting of Central Maine Power’s New England Clean Energy Connect Project.”
But opponents of the project were quick to dismiss the permit order as doing little to protect Maine’s environment and resources, and some foes called out the DEP for announcing its decision while the state is focused on battling the coronavirus pandemic................................
“Based on our initial review, the CMP corridor continues to carve an unacceptable path through a globally significant forested landscape and provides no verifiable reduction in greenhouse gas pollution,” according to a joint statement issued by the Appalachian Mountain Club, Trout Unlimited and the Natural Resources Council of Maine. “While we appreciate the department’s attempt to reduce impacts, this remains the wrong project in the wrong place. ”
CMP has said the project will provide Maine jobs and cheaper power and has offered Maine $258 million over 40 years to reduce power bills, improve broadband internet, and expand efficient home heating and electric vehicle chargers.
Most of the proposed 145-mile transmission line would only require expanding existing power line corridors, but roughly one-third would involve new construction in woodland between the Canadian border and the Kennebec River.
The draft order, which will be subject to public comment until March 27, is the second key victory for power line advocates in recent months....................................
Among other things the draft order requires:
• The corridor width to be kept to 54 feet at its widest point. The original proposal asked for a 150-foot corridor width.
• Preservation of natural forest canopy or trees at least 35-feet tall along a 14-mile segment of the corridor to protect vulnerable habitat area for wildlife and rare plants.
• The conservation of more than 700 acres of deer wintering area and the preservation of soft-wood deer travel corridors across the transmission corridor in an important deer wintering area along the Kennebec River.
• A prohibition on herbicide use for the first 53.5-mile segment of the corridor from the Canadian border to the Kennebec River.
The order also requires CMP to permanently conserve 40,000 acres of forest in western Maine and provide $1.8 million for a culvert replacement program meant to improve fish habitat, prevent erosion and improve water quality.
March 13, 2020 6:00 pm
AUGUSTA, Maine — A Franklin County resident allied with Central Maine Power asked a Maine court on Friday to overturn a decision by Secretary of State Matt Dunlap to green-light a question for the November ballot to kill the utility’s $1 billion hydropower corridor proposal.
Clean Energy Matters, the utility’s political action committee, said in a Friday news release that the court challenge had been filed. The group has alleged that opponents of the project may have violated the state’s signature gathering laws.
Dunlap’s office has said it did not have the time to review those complaints before declaring the referendum had roughly 70,000 signatures, cleared the threshold to qualify a referendum effort for the Maine ballot. The case in Kennebec County Superior Court could be decided by April.
A bill that would make utilities buy more electricity from local, renewable sources has strong backing from Vermont’s solar industry. But some utilities and the Scott administration are concerned that the new requirements will lead to rate hikes, especially in the state’s poorest regions.
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