Maine regulators are not going to make a decision on Central Maine Power's controversial power line project this year as originally planned.
On Monday, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection notified CMP that its application to build a 145-mile long transmission line through the state is still “insufficient” and “incomplete," pushing back the review and public comment of the project into next year.
In a letter to CMP, regional licensing and compliance manager for the DEP James Beyer wrote that they need more information about the project’s impact on “scenic resources,” and the people who use those resources. Beyer also asked for more information about the size and population of the invasive buckthorn plant and how CMP plans to clear the plant from the proposed corridor.
This is the second time in recent months that CMP has failed to provide the necessary information to review their project, and because of it, the Maine Public Utilities Commission won’t be able to conduct a full review of the project until March 2019. This pushes the timeline for the first public hearings on the issue into next year as well.
CMP applied for permits earlier this year to build an electrical transmission line from Quebec to Lewiston and eventually on to Massachusetts in order to deliver hydro-power to their customers there. The project would cost $950 million and install 53 miles of lines with towers and about 15 miles of designated roads through the scenic forest and mountains of western Maine.
Several environmental groups, including the Natural Resources Council of Maine, are opposed to the power line project, citing concerns that it could negatively impact the environment and wildlife, as well as tourism in an area known for its pristine wilderness. The line would also have to cross under the Kennebec River gorge, which has some folks concerned about pollution and damage to fish habitats. Opponents are also not convinced that the project will lower rates for Maine’s CMP customers, and say that they hope the PUC uses the extra time to thoroughly evaluate the project’s impacts.
“CMP’s attempt to ram this flawed project through the state permitting process is backfiring as officials uncover missing information about the project’s real impacts on Maine,” said Sue Ely, a clean energy attorney with the Natural Resources Council of Maine. “The only way for Maine regulators to evaluate this project is for CMP to provide all of the required information to decision makers, something that CMP has so far failed to do. We are encouraged that the DEP is doing such a thorough review of CMP’s application.”
CMP could not be reached for comment, but in past press releases they have contended that their power line project will produce nearly $1 billion in economic benefits to Maine, and will adhere to state and federal environmental regulations.