Maine Supreme Court sends CMP corridor case back to lower court

The state's high court ruled Tuesday that a referendum blocking the transmission line would be unconstitutional if a lower court determines the project was already too far along at the time of the vote.

In a partial and tentative victory for the developers of a stalled New England power corridor, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruled Tuesday that a voter-approved law blocking the project would be unconstitutional if enough work had already been completed.

Now it will be up to a lower court judge to determine if the New England Clean Energy Connect transmission line had established so-called vested rights before the statewide referendum was held.

The ruling, which is complicated and still being reviewed by the parties, will have the effect of prolonging the question of whether the $1 billion transmission project will be completed and when. Avangrid Networks, the parent company of Central Maine Power, is fighting to develop the 145-mile corridor to carry electricity from Quebec to Massachusetts.

The justices wrote:

“We conclude that section 6 of the Initiative, as applied retroactively to the (Public Utilities Commission permit), would infringe on NECEC’s constitutionally protected vested rights if NECEC can demonstrate by a preponderance of the evidence that it engaged in substantial construction of the project in good-faith reliance on the authority granted by the permit before Maine voters approved the initiated bill by public referendum.”

It sent the case back to the Business and Consumer Court nearly 10 months after Maine voters endorsed a law aimed at preventing the $1 billion transmission line from moving ahead.

The prospects of another protracted legal fight is a mixed blessing for both NECEC and its adversaries.

Tuesday’s decision keeps the project alive, good news for the developers. But the project is being paid for by Massachusetts utilities and their customers, part of a massive effort to shift the state to clean energy to fight climate change. Years of delay already have cost NECEC millions of dollars in contract extensions. It’s not clear how long those accommodations will continue.

“We’re going to have another year in court,” predicted Tom Saviello, the former Maine lawmaker who led the referendum campaign. “This is another year delay at a minimum before this is sorted out. At what point does Mass say, ‘We can’t wait another year?’ “

For that reason, Saviello said, he wasn’t disappointed in the Supreme Court ruling. Sorting out the legal issues flagged by the court will take time, he suggested, and time is on the side of opponents.

But NECEC’s parent company, Avangrid, said in a statement that it was pleased with the outcome. It didn’t address the nuances of the decision, but instead framed it as another step in its fight to bring clean energy to the market and overcome opposition from fossil fuel interests.

“This unanimous decision by the Law Court is a victory for clean energy expansion, transmission development, and decarbonization efforts in Maine, New England and across the country,” the company said.

It also reiterated what it sees as the project’s benefits for the state and region, such as hundreds of jobs, hundreds of millions of dollars of investment and lower energy costs.

“We are pleased with this outcome as we move Maine to a cleaner energy future,” Avangrid concluded.  

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Read the Maine high court’s ruling on the CMP corridor


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Comment by richard mcdonald on September 1, 2022 at 11:54am

If the case gets assigned to judge Michaela Murphy you can count on Avangrid coming out on top. 

Comment by arthur qwenk on August 31, 2022 at 6:07am

Mainers can afford 40 cents / kwh can' t they? 

Cancel it ! The state is down the toilet due to it's politics anyway. Stupid is as stupid does ,bring on the useless turbines !

Comment by Dan McKay on August 31, 2022 at 5:52am

If you can't rely on the regulatory agencies, why have them?  I guarantee this project would get a thumbs up if remanded back to the voters who now realize where the real corruption of the grid occurs.

Comment by Donna Amrita Davidge on August 30, 2022 at 9:38pm
Let’s hope mass does say that
Comment by Donna Amrita Davidge on August 30, 2022 at 9:38pm
Sadly insane thinking


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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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."

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