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The Environmental Council allows the state to allow standing on the transmission line project

The Environmental Protection Council on Thursday rejected an appeal of an agency permit allowing construction of a $1 billion transmission line from Quebec through Maine.

While the board amended some of the terms of the project to address concerns about the impacts, it decided The statement will remain in place. Now the fate of New England’s clean energy transmission line clearly rests with the state’s Supreme Court, which is expected to rule soon on two legal challenges related to the project.

Despite the imminent court rulings, BEP met to consider the challenges to the original permit from the Ministry of Environmental Protection for the project. The permit was issued in May 2020 and then lifted last November, after the National Economic Commission for Elections continued to work on the transmission line despite a referendum vote in favor of canceling the project.

The transmission line will carry Quebec-generated hydroelectric power 145 miles across western Maine to Lewiston, where it will be connected to the New England power grid and serve customers in Massachusetts. The line is being built by Avangrid, a massive energy company that owns Central Maine Power and New England Clean Energy Connect, a subsidiary formed to handle the construction project.

There are two questions before the Supreme Court. The first is the developer’s challenge to the November 2021 referendum in which Maine voters chose to terminate the project. The second is whether NECEC has a valid lease for the power line to cross state territory.

judges I heard the arguments in May Their ruling is expected soon, but appeals to the DEP’s original permit for the project are pending in the meantime. Three groups of appeals were filed – the Maine Natural Resources Board; NextEra Energy Resources, which owns the Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant in New Hampshire and is a competitor to hydroelectric power from Canada; And a group of western Maine residents who say their business and extension services will be threatened by the transmission line’s environmental impact.

The board on Thursday voted for the first time against scheduling a public hearing on the permit appeal, a process that would have delayed the resumption of work on the driveway even if it had been given the go-ahead from the Supreme Court. The council then voted to formally reject the appeal.

However, the council added a few requirements for NECEC. It was increased from 40,000 acres to 50,000 acres, a requirement that NECEC purchase on-land conservation facilities to offset the impact of construction and transportation towers on the environment and animal habitats of western Maine. The Board also decided to require NECEC to submit a “decommissioning plan” outlining how it plans to clean the power lane and remove equipment at the end of the project’s useful life.

The board said the end of the useful life could come in as little as two years if the project remains idle, either with a negative Supreme Court ruling or further legal challenges.

Board members said they feel NECEC needs to stick to a plan to clean up after the project if it is wiped out by court rulings.

However, opponents said Thursday that the board seemed more concerned about the time it would take for a public hearing than to consider the project’s appeals.

“Yesterday and today were a waste of time,” said Tom Savelo, the lead petitioner for the referendum. “The BEP refused to acknowledge what had happened in the pass over the past two years. Basically, they ignored the people of Maine.”

Sandy Howard, chair of the opposition group Say No to NECEC, made a similar complaint.

“I’m clearly disappointed by BEP’s decision not to hold a public hearing, particularly in light of the fact that they decided not to look at what actually happened two years after the DEP issued the permit,” she said. “They ignored the new laws… (and) they were more concerned about how long it would take to get a real answer than about protecting the environment.”

A NECEC spokesperson made a statement saying that the BEP’s decision was justified.

“Over the past three years, every regulator at the local, state, and federal levels has undertaken a comprehensive review of New England’s clean energy communications,” she said. “The Maine Department of Environmental Protection concluded two years ago this project will benefit our environment. We are pleased that the decision is in place and we will review the proposed terms.”

A statement from NECEC said the project will transfer hydroelectric power from Canada while “only affecting a thousand acres of land while committed to preserving tens of thousands of acres” in Maine.

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