Maine’s Congressman Jared Golden’s letter submitted to the Secretary of the Department of Energy, asking for the Presidential permit to be reevaluated to allow the people of Maine to be afforded the same opportunity to have a voice in the Central Maine Power (CMP’s) electricity power project as residents of NH and VT had on similar projects.
March 4, 2021
The Honorable Jennifer Granholm Secretary U.S. Department of Energy
1000 Independence Avenue, S.W. Washington, DC 20585
Dear Secretary Granholm:
I write to express my concerns and request an agency review of the issuance of a Presidential permit, as well as the accompanying Environmental Assessment (EA)/Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) by the Department of Energy (DOE) to Central Maine Power (CMP) for the New England Clean Energy Connect (NECEC) project. Given the anticipated impacts this new transmission line will have on Maine’s forest and wetland ecosystems, as well as on the communities along the route, it is troubling that the permit was granted by the previous Administration without a more thorough National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review and robust public participation consistent with the process followed by the Department for similar projects in New England.
The NECEC project consists of a transmission line that is approximately 145 miles long – a third of which would require the placement of new transmission lines through undeveloped forests in Maine’s North Woods, fragmenting the largest contiguous temperate forest in North America. According to CMP’s Section 404 Clean Water Act application to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the company reports that the construction of new transmission lines will impact an estimated 263 wetlands and 115 streams. In fact, CMP made clear that the project will “unavoidably result in permanent and temporary wetland fill” from the establishment of access road and structure preparation areas, travel lanes for vegetation clearing, conductor puller and tensioner locations, guard structures, and guy anchors. In addition, it is expected that forest in wetlands and vernal pool habitat will be removed to adhere to clearance specifications for overhead transmission lines. The areas in which these activities will occur are in essential wildlife habitat for several endangered species and could adversely impact recreation and tourism benefits to local economies.
With the high level of public interest in this project given the potential environmental and economic impacts to communities throughout northern Maine, Bruce J. Walker, Assistant Secretary at the Office of Electricity sent U.S. Senator Susan Collins a November 8, 2019 letter stating, “In the case of NECEC, DOE intends to make a draft EA available for a 30-day public comment period to provide more time for input by your concerned constituents and local experts.” You can therefore understand the frustration my constituents and I share that DOE reneged their previous commitment and instead issued a final EA in conjunction with the Presidential permit on January 14, 2021 without any sort of opportunity for public engagement.
It is important to note that the federal permitting process of similarly scaled regional projects, such as the Northern Pass Transmission Line in New Hampshire and the New England Clean Power Link project in Vermont, afforded impacted communities several opportunities to participate in public hearings with DOE as part of the agency’s NEPA review. As with the NECEC, both of these proposed projects involved cross-border transmission lines from Canada that extended over one hundred miles into their respective states. For the Northern Pass Transmission Line in New Hampshire, DOE conducted four public hearings and in Vermont, DOE organized two public hearings for the Clean Power Link project.
The Presidential permit for the NECEC project makes clear that it can be “modified or revoked by the President of the United States without notice, or by DOE after public notice, and may be amended by DOE after proper application thereto.” In an effort to ensure a transparent and thorough permitting process, I urge you to reevaluate the issuance of the Presidential permit and provide Mainers with the opportunity to engage with your agency through a public comment process that is merited for the significance of this project.
Jared Golden Member of Congress
The Clean Power Link project is apparently being rushed through permitting process. That has lawmakers concerned about how best to protect Maine’s public lands.
On Thursday, March 18, the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee will hold a public hearing on Senator Russell Black’s bill to protect Maine’s public lands. This hearing will take place at the same time as the Board of Environmental Protection’s meeting where they will discuss Central Maine Power’s (CMP’s) 700 page ‘minor revision’ application.
What: LD 471: An Act To Require Legislative Approval for Certain Leases of Public Lands
- In 2014, the State signed a lease with Central Maine Power for 36 acres that bisect a parcel of public land in Somerset County between Johnson Mountain and Wilson Pond for construction of the NECEC Corridor.
- Even though the Corridor would significantly alter the value and use of the public land, and destroy critical wildlife habitat, it was granted behind closed doors and without the required legislative input for only $1,400 per year or $39 per acre. In 2015, yet another backroom deal was brokered with CMP, this time for $3,600 per year, or $100 per acre.
- A third secret lease was again negotiated by the current administration in 2020, again without the required legislative approval.
- In 1993, 72 percent of Maine voters to amend the Maine Constitution to include Article IX, Section 23 to the Maine Constitution, which states: “State park land, public lots or other real estate held by the State for conservation or recreation purposes and designated by legislation implementing this section may not be reduced or its uses substantially altered except on the vote of ⅔ of all the members elected to each house. The proceeds from the sale of such land must be used to purchase additional real estate in the same county for the same purposes.
- The next year, the Legislature implemented this constitutional amendment.
- Even though the law, and our Constitution are very clear, two different administrations entered into illicit leases with CMP for construction of the unpopular NECEC Corridor.
- This bill simply reaffirms that the Bureau of Public Lands must secure a ⅔ vote for the approval of their lease with CMP.