The developers of a 145-mile transmission line through the state agreed to suspend work but said that also means payments for benefits will be held back.
by Edward D. Murphy
The developers of an electricity transmission corridor through western Maine who agreed to halt construction last week at the request of Gov. Janet Mills said they also are suspending payments they were making as part of the project.
Avangrid Networks, the parent of Central Maine Power Co. and power line developer NECEC Transmission LLC, released Wednesday the letter it sent to Mills on Friday, saying that stopping work on the corridor also would result in a halt to the roughly $250 million in benefits that it promised to the state to win Mills’ support for the $1 billion project.
“As a result (of stopping construction), we will also need to suspend the numerous benefit payments for electric rate relief, low-income energy customers, heat pumps, broadband expansion, educational funding, and economic development programming consistent with the applicable orders of the Public Utilities Commission,” Catherine Stempien, Avangrid Networks’ president and CEO, said in the letter.
The letter, which also was signed by NECEC CEO Thorn Dickinson and CMP President Joseph Purington, also warned that suspension of the project will have an impact on sales and income taxes generated by the project and the workers hired to construct it. The letter said the decision “will cause substantial pain to hundreds of Maine families” because work will cease..................
...........................Of the approximately $250 million in benefits to Maine, about $18 million already have been paid and municipalities have collected approximately $3.4 million in property taxes related to the project, according to court documents Avangrid filed as part of its request for a preliminary injunction.
Tuesday, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection suspended NECEC’s license for the transmission line because the viability of the project is now in doubt. That decision supersedes NECEC’s voluntary suspension, and the DEP said it will stay in place unless NECEC gets a temporary injunction or courts rule on the company’s challenge of the referendum........................The letter ended by saying that “we are not quitting on NECEC.”
Maine regulators suspend CMP corridor permit in major blow to $1B project
by Jessica Piper
Maine’s environmental regulator suspended a key permit for the construction of the Central Maine Power Co. corridor late Tuesday in a significant blow to the utility and the 145-mile transmission line it is looking to build in western Maine.
The announcement comes less than a week after a CMP affiliate announced it would stop work on the corridor after a November referendum aiming to block the project passed decisively hours after being urged to do so by Gov. Janet Mills, a Democrat who backs the corridor.
The decision will make it all but impossible for the utility to meet its 2023 target to complete the project, which would send hydropower from Quebec to connect with New England’s energy grid in response to a huge Massachusetts clean-power request. It could also jeopardize it entirely as legislative approval of the project seems unlikely and alternative routes pose other challenges, although CMP is challenging the constitutionality of the referendum in court.
“This project was fatally flawed from the very beginning and it’s time for Massachusetts to [choose] an alternative option,” Pete Didisheim, the advocacy director for the anti-corridor Natural Resources Council of Maine, said.
The Maine Department of Environmental Protection said earlier this year that it would reevaluate the company’s permit after a Superior Court judge ruled in August that the Bureau of Parks and Lands did not have the authority to grant two leases to CMP for use of public lands in Somerset County. The November referendum also retroactively banned the construction of such transmission lines in the upper Kennebec region and required legislative approval for corridor leases over public land.
In her decision, Maine Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Melanie Loyzim found the referendum constituted a change of circumstances requiring a suspension of the permit for the project. She wrote that construction should stop and gave CMP a month to stabilize disturbed soils and access roads and backfill remaining holes..........................
............................CMP and its allies are disappointed in the decision, Thorn Dickinson, the president of NECEC Transmission LLC, the affiliate managing the project, said in a statement. He said there was no need for the agency to pull the permit since construction stopped already.
“We look forward to next month’s hearing in the Maine Business Court where we will present our arguments that the initiative is unconstitutional and cannot be lawfully applied to stop this vital project,” he said.
Maine lawmakers ask Baker to halt transmission line project
Lawmakers said proceeding with the project against the will of Maine residents could “jeopardize New England’s energy future."
Maine DEP weighs legality of power corridor license in wake of Question 1 vote
The Department of Environmental Protection heard arguments Monday for and against suspending or revoking the NECEC project's construction license.
By Tux Turkel
Opponents and supporters of the controversial New England Clean Energy Connect took turns Monday debating detailed legal ramifications at a hearing that will help determine whether a pending law approved by voters on Nov. 2 compels Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection to suspend or revoke the project’s license.
Project opponents argued that the vote aimed at banning “high-impact” transmission lines in Maine’s upper Kennebec region and the pending law to put it into effect should be assumed to be constitutional unless a court says otherwise.
The project developer, however, noted that the law won’t take effect until Dec. 19. And because NECEC has temporarily stopped construction, there’s no reason for the DEP to take any action until a court rules on the company’s request for a preliminary injunction, a motion aimed at keeping the law from taking effect.
A virtual evening session for members of the public ran late into the night with opponents and supporters of the project logging in to testify. The department has not said when it will make a decision.
Monday’s daytime testimony provided new information on a few key issues.
During cross-examination, Thorn Dickinson, NECEC president and chief executive, said the company would hold off on any new construction until a ruling on its Superior Court appeal, which is now being handled by Maine’s Business and Consumer Court. A decision is expected before the end of the year.
Jamie Kilbreth, a lawyer representing a key opponent, the Natural Resources Council of Maine, asked what would happen if the injunction request is denied.
“That would be a decision we would need to consider at that time,” Dickinson responded.
Asked by DEP staff to provide a status update on the project on the ground, Dickinson said all work has stopped and contractors are focusing on making sure the corridor site is environmentally safe and sound for the duration.
Asked about the impact of a construction delay beyond December, Dickinson said it would add to costs and threaten the project’s ability to meet contract obligations in Massachusetts to be in service by August 2024. NECEC can extend that deadline one year by paying a $10 million penalty, Dickinson said. After that, he said, the contract agreement would expire.
The hearing is taking place amid confusing and rapidly changing circumstances. Most notably, NECEC agreed on Friday to temporarily halt construction on the $1 billion transmission corridor – but for reasons not specifically related to the DEP review.
The DEP has been under mounting pressure for months from project opponents to shut down construction while legal and regulatory challenges play out. That pressure intensified on Nov. 2, after roughly 60 percent of Maine voters approved a ballot question designed to block the corridor.........................
...........................It’s unknown exactly when that court action might come, but a hearing on the injunction request is set for Dec. 15. With the law scheduled to go into effect Dec. 19 – 30 days after Mills certified the election results – opponents expect the judge to decide quickly after the hearing, or at least by year’s end.............................................
The day after the election, Avangrid filed its lawsuit to challenge the constitutionality of Question 1. The company also vowed to keep building the power line.
In its complaint, Avangrid said almost $450 million already had been spent on the corridor, more than 80 percent of its right-of-way had been cleared and more than 120 structures had been erected...................
Read the full article here: https://www.pressherald.com/2021/11/22/state-environmental-regulato...
State environmental regulator to hold hearing Monday on legality of power corridor license
The Maine Department of Environmental Protection is set to meet for deliberations and public comment.
NECEC meeting at DEP live now - tune in
Tune in here: (OK to "access with browser" if don't wish to download Zoom)
At Gov. Mills’ request, NECEC will suspend construction on power corridor project
By Megan Gray Staff Writer
NECEC Transmission LLC said it will cease work on the $1 billion project until its legal challenge to a pending statutory ban plays out in court.
The developer of a $1 billion power transmission line through western Maine said Friday that it will temporarily suspend construction on the project while a legal challenge plays out in court.
The announcement came on the same day that Gov. Janet Mills wrote to the company to ask it to stop development in deference to state voters who roundly rejected the project on the November ballot. Maine voters approved Question 1, which was designed to block the corridor, by a roughly 60 percent to 40 percent margin.
Mills supports the project, known as New England Clean Energy Connect, but its future remains uncertain. Central Maine Power Co. parent company Avangrid and its subsidiary NECEC Transmission LLC have sued the state over the referendum. The Maine Department of Environmental Protection is also considering whether to suspend the project’s permit.
Thorn Dickinson, CEO and president of NECEC Transmission, said Friday that the ballot initiative “is and remains unconstitutional.” But he said the company decided to pause until the court acts upon its motion for a preliminary injunction, which seeks to prevent the new law from taking effect.
“This was not an easy decision,” Dickinson said in a statement. “Suspending construction will require the layoff of more than 400 Mainers just as the holiday season begins. It will also require the suspension of millions of dollars in future benefit payments being made to customers, businesses and host communities.”................
......................“While these matters are being considered by the DEP and the court, I believe CMP should give deference to the will of the voters,” Mills wrote. “On behalf of Maine people, I am asking you to honor their will by immediately halting any further construction on NECEC until the DEP and the court reach their independent conclusions. While you are not legally obligated to do so at this point, immediately halting construction in a voluntary manner will send a clear message to the people of Maine that you respect their will. I strongly urge you to do so.”........................
In his statement, Dickinson noted that electricity supply rates will go up more than 80 percent next year for most Maine customers. That increase is the result of climbing prices for natural gas, which is used to generate half of New England’s power.
“It is ironic that the day after our fossil fuel opponents were awarded a more than 80 percent raise, paid for by hard-working Mainers, we are now being forced to lay off workers and suspend benefit payments to the state,” he said. “It’s a valuable return on their more than $25 million political investment, while Mainers bear the environmental and economic cost.”
A spokeswoman for the governor’s office did not respond to an email Friday afternoon after the announcement from NECEC.
Read the full article at: https://www.pressherald.com/2021/11/19/mills-asks-necec-to-stop-con...
Janet Mills calls on CMP to halt corridor construction
by Jessica Piper
AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Janet Mills, who has backed the Central Maine Power Co. corridor project, called on the company to halt construction Friday while legal challenges to the transmission line and the November referendum aiming to block it are resolved.
Mills, a Democrat, sent a letter to Thorn Dickinson, CEO of NECEC Transmission LLC, the CMP subsidiary working on the project, asking him to stop work on the 145-mile corridor to “give deference to the will of the voters” while the courts and the Maine Department of Environmental Protection consider challenges to the project.
“While you are not legally obligated to do so at this point, immediately halting construction in a voluntary manner will send a clear message to the people of Maine that you respect their will,” Mills said. “I strongly urge you to do so.”
Anti-corridor advocates had been calling on CMP to stop construction since voters rejected the corridor by a 59-41 margin in the Nov. 2 referendum election. But the utility company continued work on the project, which aims to bring hydropower from Canada to connect with the New England power grid, while calling the referendum “unlawful” in a new lawsuit.
The state is also considering whether to suspend a permit given to the company last year after a judge ruled in August that the Maine Department of Environmental Protection exceeded its authority in granting the utility company a lease on public lands. CMP is also challenging that ruling.
Battle in Maine woods reflects challenge for U.S. clean power ambitions
By Richard Valdmanis, Nichola Groom
BINGHAM, Maine, Nov 4 (Reuters) - Evelyn and Bruce Beane love the wild country that surrounds them in this tiny town on the Kennebec River, skirted by miles of mountains and forested by birch, maple and pine.
So when developers arrived here a few years ago asking their support for a power transmission project that would cut through nearby woods to bring Canadian hydropower into New England, they said no.
“This is where people come to get away from power lines,” said Evelyn, 65, standing on the porch of the couple’s home as logging trucks, pickups, and hunters on ATVs passed along the road. “We don’t want it to turn into everywhere else.”
The Beanes were among the more than 230,000 Mainers who voted to reject the 145-mile (233 km) New England Clean Energy Connect (NECEC) project in a referendum this week, bringing an apparent end to a years-long battle over the 1,200-megawatt line that had pitted clean energy advocates against locals seeking to preserve the state’s woodlands.
The fate of the project – billed by its proponents as part of the solution to climate change www.reuters.com/business/cop - reflects the difficulty faced by developers nationwide in siting new transmission lines, many more of which must be built to modernize creaking grid systems and connect far-flung renewable energy sources.
No one seems to want the projects to be sited anywhere near them.
“If this type of project can’t get through, good luck getting others through,” Dennis Arriola, CEO of energy services and delivery company Avangrid Inc, which controls the project, said in an interview earlier this year.
That is a problem for the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden, which has made modernizing the nation’s electric transmission systems a key element of its plan to decarbonize the U.S. power sector here by 2035. It has earmarked billions of dollars for the effort in its White House infrastructure package here being debated by Congress.
Lots more money may be needed. Consultancy Marsh & McLennan has estimated more than 140,000 miles of transmission lines must be installed in the next three decades to meet the nation’s energy needs, at a cost of about $700 billion.
But of the roughly 20 high-voltage transmission projects now in development across the country, several face siting challenges. The $3 billion TransWest Express line to deliver wind power from Wyoming to Las Vegas, for example, is hung up in court after a land owner along its route obtained a federal conservation easement that could block its construction.
U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said the Biden administration is aware of the siting issues for transmission projects and is looking at ways the federal government can get involved. “There are an awful lot of lines that have been permitted and that just need that extra push to get over the finish line,” she told reporters on a conference call from the global climate conference in Glasgow www.reuters.com/business/cop.
The Maine transmission corridor was first proposed in 2017 after a previous proposal through New Hampshire was blocked by local opposition. Avangrid has already spent $400 million clearing land and installing poles for the Maine project after securing federal and state permits.
Avangrid said it would keep fighting for the project despite the election outcome, and swiftly filed a lawsuit in a Maine court on Wednesday.
‘THIS ISN’T THE WAY’
Bingham’s cluster of worn-out wooden homes, gas stations and wilderness outfitters has been a center of opposition to the NECEC project for months, with many of the buildings posting signs opposing it in their yards. One house hung plywood boards carrying messages in spray paint: “Stop FOREIGN INTRUSION on AMERICAN SOIL,” and “Nothing clean about NECEC.”
The homegrown feel of the opposition belies the fact that corporate interests on both sides spent tens of millions of dollars on their campaigns, making it the most expensive referendum battle in Maine history. U.S. power company NextEra Energy Inc, which has competing generating projects in New England, was among the big spenders seeking to sink the project.
Even so, local sentiment runs deep.
Joe Dionne, 71, worked in the local lumber industry for 31 years and now works in real estate. He said he opposed the project because he believed it would leave a permanent scar in the landscape, harming his business and discouraging wilderness tourism.
“They’re just going to flatten that land,” Dionne said. “It doesn’t benefit us at all.”
Asked about whether such projects are needed to fight climate change, Dionne said: “Climate change is a load of B.S.”
Continue reading at:
CMP corridor’s loss shows how New England’s clean-power goals will be hard to meet
by Lori Valigra November 8, 2021
CMP continued work on the project the day after the rebuff by Maine voters, and the same day filed a lawsuit challenging the legality of the citizens’ initiative. On Thursday, a project opponent asked the state to halt construction. Legal experts expect a flurry of lawsuits to ensue as CMP tries to keep the $1 billion project on track and as large fossil-fuel companies with big profits at risk continue efforts to kill the corridor.
With the CMP corridor at risk or facing costly delays, Maine and Massachusetts need to quickly hone energy strategies. Gov. Janet Mills has set a goal of having 80 percent renewable energy by 2030 and 100 percent by 2050. Massachusetts, which is funding the corridor, has a goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 45 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.
Experts predict that New England will need anywhere from two to four new electricity transmission lines in the next 30 years. Massachusetts is likely to let the fight around the corridor play out for a while, but it is likely considering alternatives. But they could also face problems. The referendum campaign provided a playbook for stalling new energy development.
“Any project like this is potentially extremely valuable to the region,” Jurgen Weiss, an energy economist and senior lecturer at Harvard Business School, said. “Maine benefits from a decarbonized energy supply.”
Weiss earlier worked with New Hampshire’s attorney general to tout that state’s Northern Pass transmission project, which failed to get a key permit and opened the door for CMP to win the Massachusetts contract. He said the public tends to be against large projects visible above ground.
Energy and legal experts speculated Friday about what roads are open to CMP and to Massachusetts outside of the legal cases. In Maine, CMP could move lines underground in a disputed public land section of the corridor or find an alternate route.
Another potential route that either CMP or another company might take is a proposal to connect Aroostook County to the regional grid approved by the Legislature this year. While the plan is not to design it for the electricity load of the CMP corridor, it could be adapted to be a conduit for that much power, experts said. However, that would require Hydro-Quebec moving its electricity route far east at high expense.
It is not clear how long Massachusetts will wait for the lawsuits surrounding the CMP corridor to be decided. The state is reviewing the outcome of the ballot initiative “and will be working with Avangrid and our regional partners on the path ahead to securing more affordable, renewable energy for Massachusetts,” Craig Gilvarg, spokesperson for the Energy and Environmental Affairs office, said....................
................................After CMP rivals funded the successful referendum campaign, with NextEra Energy, which owns a nuclear station in New Hampshire and an oil-fired plant in Yarmouth, spending the most among them at $20 million in an alliance with environmentalists and grassroots groups, any new transmission line is likely to see political opposition.................................
State regulator sets Nov 22 hearing on power line as opponents call for immediate halt to construction
By Tux Turkel Staff Writer
Maine voters roundly rejected the NECEC project on Tuesday, but its developer said in a lawsuit filed this week that Question 1 is unconstitutional.
................Maine Environmental Protection Commissioner Melanie Loyzim issued a letter Friday to the project’s developer, NECEC Transmission LLC, saying she is scheduling a hearing for Nov. 22 to determine the extent to which Tuesday’s passage of Question 1 affects an ongoing proceeding that could potentially result in the project’s environmental permit being suspended or revoked.
“(Maine law states) the Commissioner may revoke or suspend a license upon making certain findings, including a finding that: ‘There has been a change in condition or circumstance that requires revocation or suspension of a license,’ ” Loyzim’s letter states. “I have determined that the referendum result, if certified such that it will become law, represents an additional change in circumstance that may require suspension of the NECEC Order.”.......................
In its complaint, Avangrid said almost $450 million had already been spent on the corridor, more than 80 percent of its right-of-way has been cleared and more than 120 structures have been erected.
“This is a fully permitted project, and we intend to keep hundreds of Maine workers on the job unless otherwise ordered,” said NECEC Transmission CEO Thorn Dickinson in a statement. “.....................
Read the full article at: https://www.pressherald.com/2021/11/05/power-line-opponents-ratchet...
Janet Mills hopes the courts will 'act expeditiously' to resolve CMP's lawsuit over Question 1
Avangrid files lawsuit, vows to continue power line project despite voters’ rejection
By Tux Turkel Staff Writer
Avangrid Inc., the parent company of Central Maine Power and NECEC Transmission LLC, wasted no time filing a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the referendum Maine voters approved on Tuesday to stop a $1 billion power transmission project through western Maine.
The company issued a news release Wednesday afternoon announcing the lawsuit, filed in Maine Superior Court in Portland, alleging that Question 1 “is unconstitutional and violates both state and federal law.”
Avangrid also said it would press ahead with building the New England Clean Energy Connect power line project despite Tuesday’s overwhelming rejection of the project by Maine voters.
“While the outcome of this election is disappointing, it is not the end of the road and we will continue to advocate for this historic and important clean energy project,” the company said in a statement. “We have followed the rules every step of the way in a transparent and public process and have received every regulatory approval required for this project to proceed.”.........................
.................NECEC is a high-voltage, direct-current transmission line with a capacity of 1,200 megawatts, enough energy to run roughly 1 million homes. It would carry energy from Quebec to an alternate-current converter station in Lewiston, where it would enter the New England electric grid. It’s being built largely for the benefit of Massachusetts electric customers, who will pay the $1 billion cost.
The 145-mile route is on land owned or controlled by CMP, except for a one-mile patch through Maine public lands near The Forks. Two-thirds of the route follows existing CMP power line corridors, some of which are being widened up to 75 feet to accommodate another set of poles.
A 53-mile stretch between The Forks and the Quebec border bisects undeveloped commercial forest. The area has been logged for generations but has high-value qualities for wildlife, recreation and biodiversity. Permits require the power corridor in this section to be no more than 54 feet wide. Fewer than 1,000 acres are being cleared in total for the project.
Read the full article at: https://www.pressherald.com/2021/11/03/avangrid-vows-to-move-ahead-...
See how every Maine town voted in the CMP corridor referendum
Time will tell whether all the anti-transmission arguments are revived next time transmission lines are required for useless wind projects. Or will such wind power hook-ups be sold to Mainers under the false pretense of "aging lines" as was done with the mammoth $1.5 billion Maine Power Reliability Program? What say you about that NRCM?
CommonWealth Magazine - Maine voters tell Mass. to stick its transmission line
Backers of project say referendum was unconstitutional
MAINE VOTERS delivered a shock to Massachusetts on Tuesday, overwhelmingly approving a ballot question that would block the Bay State’s bid to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels by building a 145-mile transmission line delivering hydro-electricity from Quebec.
The ballot fight was the most expensive in Maine history. Opponents of the ballot question heavily outspent supporters and most of the state’s political and media establishment urged a no vote. But with 77 percent of the vote counted Tuesday night, the tally was 59 percent in favor of the question, 41 percent opposed.
The Natural Resources Council of Maine called the victory a landslide. Pete Didisheim, the group’s advocacy director, urged Central Maine Power to halt construction work on the transmission line immediately.
“We also call on Massachusetts to honor this electoral outcome by selecting an alternative option for meeting its climate goals without imposing significant environmental harm on another New England state,” Didisheim said in a statement.
Central Maine Power is likely to challenge the ballot outcome in court, possibly on the grounds that the question attempts to retroactively overturn regulatory approvals on which the utility relied in moving ahead with construction of the power line........................
Continue reading here:
Press Herald coverage:
Question 1 Q&A: Win or lose, power line fight will continue
By Tux Turkel Staff Writer
Is the outcome of Question 1 “binding”?
It’s something many Mainers have been wondering as they contemplate what their vote will mean to the $1 billion New England Clean Energy Connect transmission line project. They want to know if there’s finality in the outcome of Question 1, after they’ve weathered a monthslong blizzard of confusing and sometimes deceptive messages online, over the airwaves and in their mailboxes, fueled by record campaign spending.
In fact, there’s a distinct possibility that this war over competing visions for Maine’s energy future could drag on well into 2022 or beyond, even after much of the project is built.
That’s because Avangrid, the parent company of Central Maine Power and NECEC LLC, will seek to overturn the law if it passes and is enacted. Meanwhile, other legal challenges in court and at regulatory agencies will continue because they are distinct from the ballot question.
It’s a situation that appears to be unprecedented for a Maine energy project.
Avangrid reported last week that as of Sept. 30, it has spent more than $400 million on the project. It has cleared much of the corridor and is erecting steel poles. Materials for completing the project, such as transmission line and insulators, have been received. Many of these components can be seen staged in storage areas along U.S. Route 201 between Bingham and Jackman.
Results of a poll released Thursday by Digital Research Inc. of Portland found that 49 percent of Mainers planned to vote “yes” to stop construction while 36 percent planned to vote “no,” which would allow construction to proceed. Fifteen percent of those polled said they were unsure or were unwilling to state a preference.
Mainers have had months to try to sort out competing claims about the ballot measure and its likely impact. But as they head to the voting booth Tuesday, there’s no way for voters to answer some key questions, regardless of the outcome.
Will the entire 145-mile project be completed? If so, will electricity ever run through it?
And if the project’s not completed, could it be decommissioned, with all the equipment removed and the forest restored? That would be a stunning and unprecedented outcome, but one that NECEC has acknowledged is possible if the project ultimately is canceled.
IF QUESTION 1 PASSES
Q: When would the law take effect?
A: The secretary of state would have 20 days to certify the election. Then Gov. Janet Mills would have 10 days to proclaim the results.
Continue reading at: https://www.pressherald.com/2021/10/31/question-1-qa-win-or-lose-po...
Fair Use Notice: This website may reproduce or have links to copyrighted material the use of which has not been expressly authorized by the copyright owner. We make such material available, without profit, as part of our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, economic, scientific, and related issues. It is our understanding that this constitutes a "fair use" of any such copyrighted material as provided by law. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes that go beyond "fair use," you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.