FILE - Electric power lines

The Maine Secretary of State this week received an estimated 75,000 signatures against a proposed transmission line through western Maine.

Petitions for the citizens' initiative, "To Reject the New England Clean Energy Connect Transmission Project,” were turned in Monday, according to a news release from the office of Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap.

The signers want to stop a $1 billion power line project by Central Maine Power (CMP), which would bring hydropower from Canada to Massachusetts.

As the signature gathering process began, Sandi Howard, the director of the “Say No to NECEC” group told The Center Square they hoped to get close to 80,000 signatures. The effort needed 63,000 signatures to get on the ballot.

“It would basically create an extension cord from Quebec to Massachusetts with no benefit to Maine,” Howard said. “It would bring large scale environmental damage to what is the largest intact forest east of the Mississippi.”

Supporters and opponents disagree on whether the project will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“The NCRM [Natural Resources Council of Maine] opposes the CMP corridor because it is a bad deal for Maine. The line would permanently damage undeveloped forest and wildlife habitat, stifle Maine’s own renewable energy industry, and jeopardize the creation of clean energy jobs. The corridor won’t reduce global greenhouse gas emissions or create sustainable jobs for Maine people,” according to a statement on the NCRM website.

Hydro-Québec, the Canadian company seeking to export its energy to Massachusetts, maintains that Mainers will, in fact, see a benefit from the project.

"The NECEC will deliver [$1 billion] in jobs, taxes and other benefits in Maine, in the first decade," Lynn St-Laurent, a spokesperson for Hydro-Québec, told The Center Square in October. "This includes Hydro-Québec’s total contribution of [$170 million], which covers a range of climate conscious initiatives such as vehicle electrification. It also includes a benefit sharing mechanism."

The project has the support of Gov. Janet Mills and some state agencies, which is why opponents are pushing for a referendum to put it before voters, Howard said.

The Secretary of State’s office will certify that the petitions have the required number of valid signatures, after which the initiative will go before the Legislature for consideration.

“If the Legislature declines to enact it without change, Sec. Dunlap will draft the ballot question and accept public input on the wording,” according to the news release.

The finalized ballot question would then go before voters in the Nov. 3 General Election.