By Robert Daigle Special to the Press Herald
Central Maine Power is trying to build a power line to bring hydroelectric power from Canada into New England and some people are not happy about it. Recently, these opponents submitted enough petition signatures to the Secretary of State to likely trigger a public referendum on the project this November. The referendum would direct the Maine Public Utilities Commission to, contrary to their findings, reverse their decision and rule against the project.
Regardless of how you feel about the project, everyone should be concerned with the precedent that would be set if this citizen initiative process is successful.
In today’s world, all projects, from a transmission line to a new addition on your house require a permit.
For this new transmission line to get a PUC permit, it had to meet hundreds of standards proving it was in the public interest.
The PUC held weeks of public hearings, with multiple intervenors in support and in opposition to the project. They commissioned independent analyses. They took 18 months to determine if the burden of proof had been met. They concluded it had.
The PUC is led by three full time commissioners nominated by the governor and confirmed by the Senate. The PUC is known as a highly competent and politically neutral organization.
In this case, after a lengthy and public process, the PUC ruled that CMP’s project met the requirements in Maine law to earn their permit and the Public Advocate agreed.
The same process applies if you want to build an addition to your house. There are local standards you must meet. If your neighbor objects because they don’t want to look at it, they can participate at the Planning Board and/or appeal the decision. Everyone may not be happy with the outcome, but they have an opportunity to present their case, based on a set of rules adopted by publicly elected representatives.
Note that regarding the NECEC project, the referendum backers do not say the public was not heard, because they were. The referendum backers do not say arguments were not considered, because they were. These opponents to the project are not seeking intervention by the courts because they know the PUC did nothing wrong.
The opponents simply want the PUC to ignore all their evidence and hard work and say something that is untrue. It’s as if the PUC correctly ruled the sky was blue, but by a referendum vote the opponents want them to say it is green.
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• March 7, 2020 1:00 am
Updated: March 8, 2020 7:10 am
Maine celebrates 200 years of statehood this year. Much has changed in the Pine Tree State since it broke away from Massachusetts in 1820, while much — its rural nature, the vast wilderness of the North Woods and the outmigration of its youth — hasn’t changed at all.
As much as things have changed, many ideas over the years could have made the state unrecognizable as we know it today. Oil refineries, megadams, sugar beet crops and vast “natural preserves” at one time or another came close to reshaping Maine. In each case, Mainers debated what was most essential to the state’s character.
Here’s a look at seven ideas that came close to changing Maine forever.
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