With corridor ruling, opponents say CMP fighting ‘tooth-and-nail’ to overturn will of the voters

Opponents of Maine’s embattled electric utility, Central Maine Power, said the ruling Tuesday by Maine’s Supreme Judicial Court that essentially keeps alive its controversial transmission corridor project shows that the company will not respect the will of Maine voters.

Maine’s highest court ruled that the 2021 referendum blocking the construction of  a 145-mile transmission corridor through western Maine is likely unconstitutional. Last year, nearly 60% of voters decisively rejected the controversial corridor spearheaded by CMP affiliate New England Clean Energy Connect (NECEC).

“[Sixty percent] of Mainers voted against the corridor last November, yet CMP has fought tooth-and-nail to overturn the results in court,” Our Power executive director Andrew Blunt said in a statement. “[The] decision is just one more reminder that CMP, a monopoly focused entirely on profits, will always put out-of-state shareholders ahead of the will of Maine people.”

Our Power is leading a coalition of environmental and citizen groups (including Maine People’s Alliance, of which Beacon is a project) in organizing a ballot referendum next year to replace Maine’s two dominant investor-owned utilities, CMP and Versant Power, with a statewide consumer-owned power utility that would be called the Pine Tree Power Company. 

Blunt added that a consumer-owned utility would be far more accountable to voters.

“This decision is exactly why Maine needs a customer-owned utility that is accountable to us, and provides affordable and reliable power,” he said.

Following the successful referendum last year, CMP was forced to halt construction on the corridor, but continued to challenge the legality of the referendum in court.

On Tuesday, the five members of the state’s Supreme Judicial Court ruled that the ballot question provisions that retroactively prohibited the corridor violated NECEC’s “vested rights” to the project. The company claims it has those rights because it had spent nearly $450 million by the time Maine voters rejected the corridor.

The ruling sends the fate of the corridor to the Business and Consumer Court to determine if CMP and NECEC had established those rights prior to last November. 

The volunteers who organized the 2021 campaign to stop the corridor said they are confident the lower court will find that NECEC did not. 

“The law enacted by the voters of Maine is still the law. Maine Supreme Court’s decision sends the case back to the Business Court,” Sandi Howard, director of Say NO to NECEC, said in a statement. “And when the Business Court takes up this case, we are confident it will find that CMP raced the clock relying on a [Maine Public Utilities Commission] license that did not give it the right to cut the corridor.”

Top: Yes on 1 campaign official photo

About Dan Neumann

Avatar photoDan studied journalism at Colorado State University before beginning his career as a community newspaper reporter in Denver. He reported on the Global North's interventions in Africa, including documentaries on climate change, international asylum policy and U.S. militarization on the continent before returning to his home state of Illinois to teach community journalism on Chicago's West Side. He now lives in Portland. Dan can be reached at dan(at)mainebeacon.com.

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