MAINE, USA — The Public Utilities Commission endorsed Central Maine Power's controversial transmission line Friday, saying it ought to be approved and is in Maine's public interest.
The power line, formally called the New England Clean Energy Connect, is designed to bring electricity from Hydro Quebec to customers in Massachusetts. But Mainers have been divided in their feelings about the nearly $1 billion project that would build a 145 mile power line through western Maine.
The PUC examiners' report comes after months of heated controversy and is one of the largest developments in the discussion since Gov. Janet Mills unexpectedly signed on to support the project in February. The report finds that the NECEC would be beneficial to Maine based on economic, public health, and state renewable energy goals.
The report says that the cost of constructing and operating the NECEC will fall on customers of electric distribution companies in Mass. and Hydro Quebec. It also says that since the NECEC-enabled power will be delivered into Maine, Maine's electricity consumers will see significant wholesale market benefits for a period of at least 20 years.
In accordance with Gov. Mills' reasoning for support, the report says the NECEC will provide environmental benefits to Maine by replacing fossil fuels, which result in greenhouse gases. The report also says that the power line would create more than 1,600 jobs during the construction of the NECEC.
Earlier this week, Gov. Mills' hometown of Farmington rescinded its support for the project in a 262-102 vote to oppose the power line. Farmington was the largest town along the proposed corridor to oppose the project. 10 towns in western Maine have now voted against the power line.
Maine residents are still concerned about the environmental impact of the project, despite the PUC report. Sandra Howard, Director of Say NO to NECEC, responded to the report Friday, citing potential harmful impacts to scenic character, wildlife habitat, and fisheries in western Maine.
The CMP corridor still faces many layers of review. The Maine Department of Environmental Protection and Land Use Planning Commission will hold public hearings every day next week at the University of Maine in Farmington. CMP also has to get several local, state, and federal permits for the project.
Responses or exceptions to the PUC examiners' report are due by 4 p.m. on April 8.
The full report reads as follows: