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CMP Transmission Line to Face State Hurdles in 2019

The town of Jackman, which just voted to oppose the CMP transmission line, is located on Maine's border with Canada. (Wbaron/Wikimedia Commons)
The town of Jackman, which just voted to oppose the CMP transmission line, is located on Maine's border with Canada. (Wbaron/Wikimedia Commons)
December 3, 2018

JACKMAN, Maine — The town of Jackman has joined a growing number of places and organizations that oppose the proposed Central Maine Power transmission line. But public pressure may not be the biggest problem CMP is facing.

The transmission line, known as the "New England Clean Energy Connect," would carry hydropower generated in Quebec to Massachusetts, through Western Maine. Dylan Voorhees, climate and clean energy director with the Natural Resources Council of Maine, said Jackman's vote against the power line symbolized a larger movement.

"This isn't just about one town, or another town. It's really about impacts on a broad region,” Voorhees said. “This is an unfragmented piece of forestland, all across Somerset County and Franklin counties."

Backers of the project see hydropower as renewable energy, and say it would bring lower electricity bills to Massachusetts, and more jobs and property-tax revenue to Western Maine. The Natural Resources Council of Maine has argued it would affect more than 50 miles of forestland and divert power from one market to another, rather than create more renewable energy.

Even as an increasing number of Mainers question its environmental impact and economic benefits, the next hurdles for the CMP project are at the state level. First, there's the Public Utilities Commission. Voorhees said there have been public hearings, but no vote yet.

"There isn't a specific date for them to vote, but the current schedule has all of the process wrapping up so that they could vote in the first half of March,” he said.

That date, however, has been delayed several times.

Also, Voorhees explained the project has to get state environmental approval.

"The Department of Environmental Protection also needs to decide whether or not to give this project a permit,” Voorhees said. “And there's been a lot of process so far, but much of it has not actually even started yet."

The Department of Environmental Protection has had no public hearings yet, and the Land Use Planning Commission would also have to approve the CMP transmission line. A similar proposal failed to pass in New Hampshire earlier this year.

Laura Rosbrow-Telem, Public News Service - ME