AUGUSTA, Maine — The battle over the proposed CMP transmission line in western Maine now has opponents questioning whether Governor Mills might come out and support the project. As a result, opponents are criticizing Mills after a comment on a radio show this week, saying she is “happy with progress” in negotiations about the big power line. 

During the fall campaign, Mills and the other three candidates for Governor all expressed varying degrees of skepticism about the New England Clean Energy Connect project. Over the past few weeks, there have been negotiations between CMP, intervenors and the Public Utilities Commission. On Tuesday Governor Mills told Maine Public’s “Maine Calling” radio show, “And so I’m happy with the progress that is being made and I’m anxious to see the details.”

At the same time, Mills said she continues to look for CMP to mitigate environmental and other damage, provide help to Western Maine with broadband and be more accepting of solar energy development. She spoke about those issues to NEWS CENTER Maine:

“I’m encouraged by the fact they are looking at environmental mitigation. They are looking at lowering rates talking about solar and broadband and those things, electric vehicles, and weaning our state off fossil fuels. Those are the things I’ve been talking about all along.”

The radio comment prompted opposition groups to unleash emails and phone calls to complain. Sandi Howard of Say No to NECEC says Mills’ comments got their attention.

“There’s a lot of concern she’s starting to warm up to the project and there may be potential for her to also enter settlement agreements with Central Maine power and that has a lot of fire going around the state right now,” Howard said Thursday.

The Governor’s office says Mills has not endorsed the project, and still wants guarantees of long term benefits to Maine.

Howard, on the other hand, made it clear that opponents are closely watching what the Governor Says and does.

“While she isn’t involved in the approval process it does send some sort of endorsement we need to be aware of.”

The PUC is expected to rule on the project in March. The environmental permit process will begin in April or May.