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Maine supreme court breathes new life into power project


PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Maine’s highest court docket on Tuesday breathed new life right into a $1 billion transmission line that goals to function conduit for Canadian hydropower, ruling {that a} statewide vote rebuking the challenge was unconstitutional.

The Supreme Judicial Courtroom dominated that the retroactive nature of the referendum final yr violated the challenge developer’s constitutional rights, sending it again to a decrease court docket for additional proceedings.

The court docket didn’t rule in a separate case that focuses on a lease for a 1-mile portion of the proposed energy line that crosses state land.

Central Maine Energy’s guardian firm and Hydro Quebec teamed up on the challenge that will provide as much as 1,200 megawatts of Canadian hydropower. That’s sufficient electrical energy for 1 million houses.

Many of the proposed 145-mile (233-kilometer) energy transmission line can be constructed alongside present corridors, however a brand new 53-mile (85-kilometer) part was wanted to achieve the Canadian border.

Staff have been already clearing bushes and setting poles when the governor requested for work to be suspended after the referendum. The Maine Division of Environmental Safety later suspended its allow however that might be reversed relying on the end result of authorized proceedings.

The excessive court docket was requested to weigh in on two separate lawsuits. Builders sought to declare the November 2021 referendum unconstitutional whereas one other lawsuit targeted on a lease permitting transmission strains to cross a brief section of state-owned land.

Supporters say daring initiatives akin to this one, funded by ratepayers in Massachusetts, are essential to battle local weather change and introduce extra electrical energy right into a area that’s closely reliant on pure fuel, which may trigger spikes in vitality prices.

Critics say the challenge’s environmental advantages are overstated — and that it could hurt the woodlands in western Maine.

It was the second time the Supreme Judicial Courtroom was requested to weigh in on a referendum geared toward killing the challenge. The primary referendum proposal by no means made it onto the poll after the court docket raised constitutional issues.

Though the challenge is funded by Massachusetts ratepayers, the introduction of a lot electrical energy to the grid would serve to stabilize or scale back electrical energy charges for all customers, proponents contend.

The referendum on the challenge was the most expensive in Maine historical past, topping $90 million and underscoring deep divisions.

The high-stakes marketing campaign put environmental and conservation teams at odds, and pitted utilities backing the challenge towards operators of fossil fuel-powered vegetation that stand to lose cash.


Comply with David Sharp on Twitter @David_Sharp_AP

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