March 18, 2021
Justice Michaela Murphy ruled on March 17, 2021 that the Maine Bureau of Public Lands didn’t have the authority to lease a 1-mile section to the New England Clean Energy Connect without first determining whether the lease would substantially alter the land. The rest of the corridor is owned by Central Maine Power.
Murphy’s ruling triggers a review of the state’s lease of a small section of land that’s part of a proposed 145-mile power line aimed at bringing Canadian hydropower to Massachusetts. A formal assessment of the project’s impact on the land, as required by the Maine Constitution now must take place. A finding of significant alterations would trigger a legislative review and a two-thirds majority approval to proceed.
“If BPL determines that a proposed use of public lands results in ‘substantial alteration,’ the legislative branch must be given the final say on the issue,” wrote Justice Murphy.
Wednesday’s ruling came in a civil action against Andy Cutko, director of the Maine Bureau of Public Lands. The bureau granted a 25-year lease that was later renegotiated to lift the annual payments from $5,000 to $65,000.