The Hydropower Project Is Now in the Grips of Maine’s Highest Court

Maine’s Highest Court, which made statements this week from proponents and opponents of the now-stalled renewable energy program, will determine the future of a 145-mile hydroelectric transmission system.

Central Maine Power Co. is in charge of the $1 billion NECEC projects, which aim to supply up to 1,200 MW of electricity through Hydro-Québec dams. Along the projected transmission path, the majority of the energy would be transmitted to nearby Massachusetts.

The Supreme Court is examining a legal appeal from the coalition of corporations behind the project, which claims that a resolution backed by electors in November disapproving the project was unlawful because the initiative had already secured state and federal permissions to proceed.

During court proceedings on Tuesday, John Armando, an attorney representing the NECEC initiative, told the court that the government of Maine’s integrity is at issue in this case. He went on to say that vested rights were provided by a number of approvals issued by authorities, and he urged the courts to rule the poll unlawful.

However, attorney James Kilbreth, who leads the opposing party No to NECEC, contended that the provision of the vested rights does not qualify because the government permits authorized for the project violate a regulation that undertakings materially affecting wilderness areas be approved by a two-thirds decision in the Legislature.

Both sides have fought a lengthy and contentious battle over the development, attempting to change public opinion about whether it will help or harm the state and its users.

The project’s supporters claim it would create jobs, help clean the regional electricity grid, and reduce carbon emissions, which experts say are leading to global warming. Opponents argue that the plan would cut through magnificent areas of woodland in the North Maine Woods, resulting in the loss of employment and leisure activity.

During the court on Tuesday, justices questioned attorneys on both parties with specific questions about the contract and whether the poll infringed the provision of the vested right by dismissing the proposal retrospectively. The court as a whole did not indicate which path it was heading in the matter.

The high court is also examining a state Bureau of Parks and Lands ruling delaying a 2020 contract negotiated by the bureau with the energy corporations to install a segment of the transmission network on several acres of state-owned territory. The corporations have requested that the contract for a portion of the land be renewed.

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