The state Board of Environmental Protection will take up a set of appeals against Central Maine Power’s stalled Western Maine transmission line in May, as the controversial project awaits other court rulings on last fall’s referendum vote that created new obstacles to its construction.
The New England Clean Energy Connect Project, which would bring Canadian hydropower onto the regional grid to help meet Massachusetts’ climate goals, has been on hold since late 2021.
Of the many open threads that could still change the project’s fate, the appeals before the BEP are some of the longest-running. They come from a range of project opponents, including the environmental group Natural Resources Council of Maine and NextEra, a Florida-based energy company whose New England fossil fuel and nuclear plants would compete with the corridor.
The appeals primarily relate to the BEP’s 2020 approval of the project, challenging the board’s authority and its consideration of the corridor’s environmental and climate change implications.
Regulators have tentatively scheduled a two-day consideration of the appeals for May 17 and 18 at the University of Maine in Farmington. They will not take new public testimony or admit new evidence. Instead, they will hear a recap of the case from attorneys for various stakeholders and decide whether an additional hearing is needed before making decisions.
The hearings will also be live streamed. Details, including a more than 6,500-page preliminary packet of related documents, can be found on the BEP’s website. Board staff are expected to post a recommended order on the appeals closer to the May consideration dates.
Meanwhile, there are two major court cases pending on the corridor. The state Supreme Court will decide whether a lower court erred in overturning the project’s public lands lease last year. The high court has also been asked to weigh in on a Superior Court suit against the referendum that has temporarily blocked the project.
There’s no timeline for a decision in either case. CMP had hoped to complete the corridor and bring it online by 2023 to meet Massachusetts’ deadline for its emissions-cutting targets.