Maine hits the brakes

Source: BY MATTHEW CHOI, Politico • Posted: Sunday, November 28, 2021

 Maine Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Melanie Loyzim suspended the permits for the New England Clean Energy Connect, a controversial 145-mile transmission project that would deliver hydropower from Quebec into New England. The suspension of the permits comes after 59 percent of Maine voters rejected the project in a ballot referendum earlier this month.

The permit suspension means that all construction must stop for the $950 million project that was set to come on line in 2023.The suspension order does state that permits can be reinstated if the project prevails in its existing legal challenges, including one that asserts the referendum was unconstitutional.

Thorn Dickinson, the president and CEO of NECEC, said at a DEP hearing on Monday that 139 miles of the 145-mile corridor have already been cut and that suspension of the permit would result in the laying off of 400 workers. NECEC became the most expensive ballot campaign in Maine state history and forged some strange political alliances . Democratic Gov. Janet Mills, former Republican Gov. Paul LePage and Granholm all supported the project, but some environmental groups and major energy companies — along with a majority of every town along the corridor — opposed NECEC. Though Mills backed the project, she wrote to NECEC on Nov. 19 prior to DEP’s ruling that she wanted the project to voluntarily pause all construction to respect the will of Maine voters, which NECEC agreed to do temporarily. A recent Beacon Research poll released after the Nov. 2 referendum found that 64 percent of Maine voters said they wanted to stop all clearing and 61 percent supported DEP suspending the project’s permit.