NECEC foes have enough signatures to advance ballot initiative on project
- Mar 8, 2021 8:32 pm GMT
Opponents of the controversial New England Clean Energy Connect transmission project have gathered enough signatures to advance a ballot initiative on it, according to the Maine Secretary of State's office.
The initiative would require any high-impact transmission line longer than 50 miles to be approved by the state legislature; prohibit the building of high impact transmission lines in the Upper Kennebec region; and reaffirm a requirement in the Maine constitution that the legislature approve leases that cross public lands if they significantly alter the use of those lands. It also would make the first two items retroactively effective to Sept. 16, 2020 and the third item retroactively effective to Sept. 16, 2014, which would put the kibosh on the project.
Shenna Bellows' office said 80,506 signatures supporting the ballot initiative were certified, exceeding the threshold of 63,067, according to a report by Don Carrigan for the Associated Press. The initiative now moves to the Maine legislature, which will consider enacting it. If it's not enacted, the initiative will move to the ballot where Maine voters will have a chance to approve it in November.
The NECEC would carry 1,200 megawatts of hydropower generated by Hydro-Québec from the Canadian border to southern Maine where it would be fed into the New England grid for Massachusetts consumers. It would be built, own and operated by NECEC Transmission LLC, an Avangrid subsidiary that has already started work on it.
The project has been controversial since its inception, largely because it would require construction of a new transmission corridor through forest being logged for timber in western Maine. Its foes also question its green pedigree and Hydro-Québec's relations with First Nations in Canada.
Clean Energy Matters, a political action committee created by Avangrid, has said it will conduct its own review of the signatures gathered by NECEC opponents.
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