November 22, 2021

By Ramona du Houx

A bipartisan group of 50 Maine lawmakers today sent Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker a letter urging him to respect the vote of Maine people and do everything in his power to terminate the New England Clean Energy Connect (NECEC) project and seek an alternative project from other bids that were received.

On November 2, an overwhelming majority of Maine voters approved a referendum that bans construction of a transmission line such as the NECEC in the Upper Kennebec Region in Maine.

The vote was well over 60 percent in favor of stopping the corridor’s construction.

“Respecting the will of Maine people is critical as New England states and governments collectively work to address climate change,” the legislators wrote in their letter. “As a bipartisan group of lawmakers representing regions throughout Maine, we discourage Massachusetts from proceeding with this project after the people of Maine delivered a stunning rebuke of the NECEC. Massachusetts has other options it can pursue to respect the will of Maine people and reach your state’s energy aspirations.”

The letter states: “Massachusetts has other options it can pursue to reconcile the will of Maine people with your state’s climate aspirations. The Massachusetts electric distribution companies (EDCs) received 46 bids as part of the 83D Clean Energy Generation RFP process. Given the vote by Maine people, the time has come for the EDCs to move on from the NECEC and select another project.”

In addition to the rebuke from Maine voters, CMP currently does not have legal access to its entire route after a State Superior Court judge in August 2021 terminated an illegal lease that NECEC received to cross Maine public lands. In response to the Superior Court ruling and the election results, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is determining whether it is now required to suspend the NECEC construction permit. 

Although construction on the NECEC continued following the November 2 elections, on November 19 the company agreed on to halt work temporarily in response to a letter from Gov. Janet Mills to top NECEC officials. The letter from Maine lawmakers to Baker represents a similar request, urging key decision-makers in Massachusetts to honor the will of Maine voters.

The list of lawmakers who signed the letter:

The letter continues, “We are eager to work with Massachusetts and other New England states on regional plans and strategies for renewable energy generation and transmission. We understand the severity of climate change and the need to act quickly and collaboratively. The precedent that concerns us is the one that would occur if developers persist with this project in the face of overwhelming opposition from Maine people. That is the precedent that could jeopardize New England’s energy future. We urge you to terminate the NECEC contract and move on to choose another project.”

The lawmakers explained that the referendum in Maine “specifically focuses on a poorly sited project, the NECEC,” and expressed confidence that well-planned projects “can be readily approved.” They cited an example from earlier this year when the Maine Senate and House unanimously approved legislation supporting a transmission line that would connect northern Maine clean energy projects with the ISO-New England system.

The 145-mile NECEC transmission line was proposed by Maine’s largest utility, Central Maine Power (CMP), to deliver hydropower to Massachusetts to help that state meet its climate goals. NECEC was chosen from a list of 46 bids that responded to a 2017 request for proposals from Massachusetts. NECEC was selected by the Massachusetts EDCs in February 2018, following a unanimous vote on February 1 by the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee rejecting a permit for construction of the Northern Pass project, which also proposed delivering power from Hydro-Quebec to Massachusetts. The Massachusetts EDCs finalized contracts with CMP and Hydro-Quebec for the NECEC project in June 2018.