(The Center Square) – Maine lawmakers have stated their opposition to a controversial 145-mile hydropower transmission corridor that would run through the state.
The state Legislature, in its final vote of the session, passed a largely symbolic resolution stating that the project constituted a "substantial alteration" of public lands and should have been required to pass with a two-thirds vote. The Senate approved the measure on a 28-6 vote. The House voted 66-52 to approve it.
The resolution won't stop the $1 billion hydropower corridor that is already underway and comes after lawmakers failed to approve measures aimed at halting work on the project and creating the state's first publicly owned utility.
But Sandi Howard, of the opposition group No CMP Corridor, said the legislative resolution sends "a clear and powerful message to CMP and the administration" about the project.
Opponents of the products are now turning their attention to a November referendum that asks voters to scuttle the hydropower project. A similar referendum was knocked off the ballot last year by the state Supreme Judicial Court. The latest ballot initiative is also facing a lawsuit seeking to split the referendum into three separate questions.
Central Maine Power’s New England Clean Energy Connect project calls for providing up to 1,200 megawatts of Canadian hydropower to the New England region.
The companies say the project will create jobs, help green the regional power grid and reduce greenhouse gas emissions that scientists say are contributing to climate change.
The utility argues that the clean energy project is good for the environment and it will reduce carbon emissions that scientists say are contributing to climate change.
Opponents say the project would carve through scenic swathes of untouched forest in the North Maine Woods and lead to a loss of jobs and recreational tourism.
Both sides have waged a costly and bitter public relations war for several years over the details of the project, and whether it will negatively impact the state and its ratepayers.
The hydropower project has cleared regulatory hurdles, including approval by Maine's Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
In January, the project was granted a presidential permit by then-President Donald Trump that allows the transmission line to cross the Canadian border.
But U.S. Rep. Jared Golden and other members of the state's congressional delegation have asked the Biden administration to rescind the order.