Maine high court rules anti-CMP corridor referendum is unconstitutional

by Caitlin Andrews

AUGUSTA, Maine — A referendum bid aimed at killing Central Maine Power’s controversial $1 billion corridor was virtually killed on Thursday by the state’s high court, which deemed the effort unconstitutional in a decision that will have yearslong political implications.

The decision all but ends the most expensive campaign over a Maine referendum ever. It may forever limit the power of Mainers to legislate at the ballot box. Previous initiatives have been subject to constitutional challenges, but proponents were allowed to pass them and later lobby for adjustments in the Legislature.

On Thursday, five justices on the Maine Supreme Judicial Court agreed with CMP parent Avangrid that the question was unconstitutional, ordering a lower court to issue a judgment to that effect ordering Secretary of State Matt Dunlap to remove the question from the ballot. Opponents can appeal the ruling on other grounds, but the path is narrow.

Jon Breed, the executive director of Clean Energy Matters, a CMP-funded political committee that has spent at least $16.7 million to oppose the referendum, called the decision “a major victory for Maine.”

Supporters of the question, however, said they would find a way. Former state Sen. Tom Saviello of Wilton, who leads a group opposed to the corridor, said his side could still harness the strong opposition to the project to bring a law through the State House, or put up another signature-gathering effort for next year.

“We’re not giving up,” he said, adding that the ruling effectively disenfranchised the voters who had signed petitions for the question. “This is just the beginning.”

Avangrid filed the lawsuit in May against Dunlap seeking to stop his office from putting the question to kill the corridor proposal on the November ballot, arguing that it violates a separation of powers provision in the Maine Constitution.

A lower-court judge ruled against the utility in June, agreeing with Dunlap’s assertion that while the referendum may be unconstitutional, it was not necessary to determine that ahead of an election in which the question may pass or not. A state attorney, however, told the court Dunlap would remove the question if it told him to do so.Justices noted that the court had never prejudged the constitutionality of a question. But they said the CMP referendum question differed from others finessed in the legislative process because it concerned whether the question — and not the underlying issue — was valid at all.

The court also ruled that while the Legislature — and voters by extension — could rein in or expand the authority of utility regulators, they cannot pass a law telling the executive branch to overturn one of their past decisions.


Challenge to Mass. hydro-electricity connection yanked from ballot

Maine court says referendum question unconstitutional

Bruce Mohl Aug 13, 2020

THE SUPREME JUDICIAL COURT of Maine on Thursday yanked a referendum question off the November ballot that could have derailed a Massachusetts proposal to import hydro-electricity from Quebec using a power line running from the Canadian border to Lewiston, Maine.

The high court, overturning a lower court’s decision, held that the referendum question was unconstitutional and shouldn’t be allowed on the ballot because it sought to overturn a key regulatory approval of the power line granted by the Maine Public Utilities Commission.

The decision doesn’t end the fight over the power line, but it knocks out one of the major challenges to it. The ballot question, as of several weeks ago, had already become the most expensive in Maine history, with the opposing sides spending tens of millions of dollars appealing to voters. Opponents of the project said their polling indicated the ballot question was likely to pass.

Massachusetts has largely stayed out of the fight, but electric customers in the Bay State set it in motion. Three Massachusetts utilities, acting on behalf of their customers at the Baker administration’s request, agreed to pay nearly $1 billion to the Quebec-owned utility Hydro-Quebec and the Maine utility Central Maine Power to import hydro-electricity into the New England region.

An earlier bid to import the hydro-electricity using a power line through New Hampshire was shot down by regulatory agencies there.

The goal of the hydro-electricity project is to increase the supply of clean energy coming into the region and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Gas-fired power plants in Maine, who saw the power line as a threat to their business, joined forces with environmentalists and sport fishing groups to oppose the power line. Hydro-Quebec and Central Maine Power poured millions of dollars into a campaign supporting the power line, as well as a legal challenge to the ballot question itself.

Their legal challenge said the referendum question was unconstitutional because it violated the separation of powers between the legislative and executive branches of government. In its opinion, the court likened the ballot question to a legislative action initiated by voters instead of lawmakers. The court ruled that the ballot question exceeded the scope of the people’s legislative powers because it sought to overturn an executive branch regulatory decision.

“The initiative at issue here is not legislative in nature because its purpose and effect is to dictate the [Public Utilities] Commission’s exercise of its quasi-judicial executive-agency function in a particular proceeding,” the court’s opinion said. “The resolve would interfere with and vitiate the commission’s fact-finding and adjudicatory function – an executive power conferred on the Commission by the Legislature.”

The decision stunned opponents.

“We are digesting the ruling of the Maine Supreme Court and weighing our options for going forward,” said Adam Cote, an attorney representing opponents of the power line.

Colin Durrant, a spokesman for the Natural Resources Council of Maine, said the environmental group was extremely disappointed...................................

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Comment by Willem Post on August 13, 2020 at 6:39pm

This means putting the anti-corridor issue on the ballot form was ruled unconstitutional. by the court.

It could be appealed 

Without a referendum people would not have a voice to oppose corridors dreamt up in Disgusta.

More than NINETY percent of the power through that corridor has been spoken for by Massachusetts.

Maine gets less than 10%, as a consolation prize/bribe

That is what happens when you elect Democrats to run the state.


Comment by Stephen Littlefield on August 13, 2020 at 6:26pm

With this there really isn't a need for 100 wind turbines and if the Feds stop the subsidies like they are supposed to, most all the wind turbine construction should stop and it wouldn't be a surprise if some if not many operating could be abandoned if no one will buy power at the actual cost!

Comment by Donna Amrita Davidge on August 13, 2020 at 5:49pm
I misunderstood this.. so the corridor is on and the 100 turbines near lake Mattawamkeag avd island falls set in a territory not a town will go forward??

Hannah Pingree on the Maine expedited wind law

Hannah Pingree - Director of Maine's Office of Innovation and the Future

"Once the committee passed the wind energy bill on to the full House and Senate, lawmakers there didn’t even debate it. They passed it unanimously and with no discussion. House Majority Leader Hannah Pingree, a Democrat from North Haven, says legislators probably didn’t know how many turbines would be constructed in Maine."


Maine as Third World Country:

CMP Transmission Rate Skyrockets 19.6% Due to Wind Power


Click here to read how the Maine ratepayer has been sold down the river by the Angus King cabal.

Maine Center For Public Interest Reporting – Three Part Series: A CRITICAL LOOK AT MAINE’S WIND ACT


(excerpts) From Part 1 – On Maine’s Wind Law “Once the committee passed the wind energy bill on to the full House and Senate, lawmakers there didn’t even debate it. They passed it unanimously and with no discussion. House Majority Leader Hannah Pingree, a Democrat from North Haven, says legislators probably didn’t know how many turbines would be constructed in Maine if the law’s goals were met." . – Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting, August 2010 Part 2 – On Wind and Oil Yet using wind energy doesn’t lower dependence on imported foreign oil. That’s because the majority of imported oil in Maine is used for heating and transportation. And switching our dependence from foreign oil to Maine-produced electricity isn’t likely to happen very soon, says Bartlett. “Right now, people can’t switch to electric cars and heating – if they did, we’d be in trouble.” So was one of the fundamental premises of the task force false, or at least misleading?" Part 3 – On Wind-Required New Transmission Lines Finally, the building of enormous, high-voltage transmission lines that the regional electricity system operator says are required to move substantial amounts of wind power to markets south of Maine was never even discussed by the task force – an omission that Mills said will come to haunt the state.“If you try to put 2,500 or 3,000 megawatts in northern or eastern Maine – oh, my god, try to build the transmission!” said Mills. “It’s not just the towers, it’s the lines – that’s when I begin to think that the goal is a little farfetched.”

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