Maine’s Supreme Court cleared the way for construction to begin on the nearly $1-billion, 145-mile high voltage transmission line that will feed hydroelectric power from Quebec into the New England power grid.
The court on Aug. 13 rejected as unconstitutional a proposal by foes to include a measure opposing the project, called New England Clean Energy Connect, on the state ballot in November. Opponents challenged the transmission line’s approval by the Maine Public Service Commission.
Avangrid, the parent of Central Maine Power that is developing the project to provide 1,200 MW of clean energy to New England utilities under a 20-year contract, sued Maine officials in May to stop the ballot measure. The state high court ruling overturned a lower court decision in June that had rejected Avangrid's position.
Construction will begin once Avangrid receives the necessary U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit expected “in the next few weeks,” the company said. A presidential permit from the U.S. Dept. of Energy is needed for cross border transmission from Canada but will not affect the start of construction, according to the company. The project is expected to come online in 2022.
Cianbro Corp., a Maine-based construction services company, in joint venture with Irby Construction, Sargent Electric and Northern Clearing Inc., received a $300-million transmission construction contract in April.
The project also includes upgrading 50 miles of existing transmission lines and the construction of a new converter station and a new substation.
Two-thirds of the new 354-kV project will be built along an existing transmission corridor owned by Central Maine Power, the remaining 53 miles is on forest land and will connect to an existing substation in Lewiston.
It can be tailored to also deliver power from wind, solar and battery storage projects as well and it has the flexibility to deliver power in three capacities—460 MW, 660 MW or 1,110 MW, the company says.
Robert Kump, Avangrid deputy CEO, says the project “will help address the climate crisis by removing millions of metric tons of carbon from our air annually.”
But opponents dispute that claim, citing a document that shows concerns voiced by the Corps and Dept. of Energy.
“This document clearly show the company’s pattern of obstruction and disinformation when it comes to providing objective information about the climate impact of its proposed transmission corridor,” says Nick Bennett, staff scientist at the Natural Resources Council of Maine, which obtained the document through a Freedom of Information Act request.
The group wants the Corps to conduct an environmental impact statement for the project rather than accepting an environmental assessment performed by the company.