MAINE The Department of Environmental Protection on Tuesday suspended the permit it had issued for a Massachusetts-funded transmission line carrying hydropower from Quebec until a court suspends the application or cancels a law passed by voters on November 3 blocking the project.
The decision by Melanie Loyzim, the department’s commissioner, means the fate of the project – a pillar of Massachusetts’ effort to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 – is now in the hands of Maine courts.
Loyzim said all construction on the transmission line must stop. Project developer New England Clean Energy Connect had continued construction after the vote was taken, but voluntarily halted all work on Friday in response to a request from Gov. Janet Mills.
New England Clean Energy Connect has filed a lawsuit seeking an injunction prohibiting enforcement of the law approved by voters. The law retroactively prohibits the construction of high-impact transmission lines in the Upper Kennebec area of ââMaine and requires transmission lines located elsewhere in the state to gain the support of the majority of the legislature if they are located on high-impact lines. private land and two-thirds if they operate through public land.
Loyzim said it was unlikely that New England Clean Energy Connect could build the transmission line to bypass restrictions in the new law.
“I find that there are no readily identifiable and potentially viable alternative routes that would allow the completion of the project and the delivery of renewable hydroelectricity from Canada to the New England grid given the statutory changes in the approved referendum. “Loyzim said in his decision. âThe possibility of an additional alternative route around the entire Haut Kennebec region remains speculative at this time and therefore where an alternative route might cross Maine, how it would avoid the Upper Kennebec region and where it could connect with the existing project route, if any, is unknown.
The law voted by voters officially comes into force on December 19.
Fifty Maine lawmakers on Tuesday sent a letter to Gov. Charlie Baker urging him to remove Massachusetts from the transmission project. It is not clear if Baker has this authority at this point given the way the contract is drafted.
New Hampshire is the second place where Massachusetts has sought to import hydropower from Quebec. The first attempt was in New Hampshire and was shot down in 2018 by regulators there. Maine’s transmission line, which would run from the Quebec border to Lewiston, Maine, got all the necessary approvals and moved forward until voters rejected it at the ballot box. New England Clean Energy Connect said it has spent more than $ 450 million so far on the $ 1 billion project.