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New England Clean Energy Connect opponents now aiming for 2021 ballot initiative

image credit: © Stephan Pietzko |
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I've been a business journalist since 1985 when I received an MBA from Penn State. I covered energy, technology, and venture capital for The Philadelphia Business Journal from 1998 through 2013....

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  • Sep 17, 2020

Opponents of the New England Clean Energy Connect are starting to resemble the Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. No matter how injuries they suffer in their attempts to block the controversial transmission project, they refuse to quit fighting.

The news desk of Bangor, Maine, TV station WABI5 reported Sept. 17 that NECEC opponents have filed paperwork with the state to begin the effort to get a referendum on the project before Maine voters in 2021 even though it was less than a month ago that their effort to get a referendum on the project on the ballot this November was defeated.

NECEC opponents had gathered enough signatures to get the referendum on the ballot but the Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruled on Aug. 13 that it “exceed[ed] the scope of legislative powers” granted to the people by Maine's constitution because it didn't propose legislative action, but instead sought to reverse an administrative decision made by a state commission, namely the Maine Public Utilities Commission, which granted the project a certificate of public convenience and necessity in May of last year.

As reported by The Free Press' Ethan Andrews, that ruling led to Cumberland County Superior Court Justice Thomas Warren on Aug. 21 issuing a declaratory judgment in favor of Avangrid in a lawsuit that the company, which is developing the project, had filed to keep the referendum off the ballot.

The NECEC is controversial in Maine because it would require a new 53-mile transmission corridor through forestland and the electricity generated by Hydro-Québec (whose dam is pictured above) that it would bring into the country ultimately would go to Massachusetts consumers.

"The project remains wildly unpopular,” former Maine State Senator and State Representative Tom Saviello, who is leading the effort to get a referendum on the project on the 2021 ballot, told WABI5. "As I have said all along, in the immortal words of American Revolutionary War Hero John Paul Jones, ‘We have not yet begun to fight.’”

And as the Black Knight said after King Arthur cut his arms off in Monty Python and the Holy Grail: "It's just a flesh wound."



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