MAINE, Maine — November has been good to opponents of the New England Clean Energy Connect, better known as the CMP corridor.
In contrast, it's been a rough month for Avangrid and NECEC Transmission, and the people who work for those companies.
First was the referendum vote on Nov. 2, where roughly 60% of Maine voters cast ballots for Question 1 to stop the corridor project.
Then, on Nov. 19, the NECEC reluctantly agreed to temporarily shut down construction until a court decides on their legal challenge of the new law. That shutdown decision came after Gov. Janet Mills sent them a letter urging the company to respect the decision of the voters and stop work until the court decision.
Then, on Tuesday, Maine Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Melanie Loyzim ruled the passage of the new law by voters created a change in conditions for the project and ordered the NECEC project’s license suspended.
That suspension will remain in place at least until after the Business and Consumer Court rules on the request from the company for a temporary injunction to prevent the new law from taking effect.
The DEP ruling included the conclusion by the commissioner that the referendum law, currently scheduled to take effect on Dec. 19, threatens to put a halt to the corridor.
“The approved referendum changes the law and directly impacts the project,” the commissioner wrote.
And there was more.
“In light of the approval of the referendum, I find that at this point there is not a reasonable likelihood of the project being able to deliver power, and any further environmental impacts associated with continued construction at this time are unreasonable, requiring suspension of the license as ordered here.”
NECEC President Thorn Dickinson issued a written statement, saying the company was disappointed but still committed to finding a way to build the transmission line project.
The company insisted the new law violates Maine’s constitution, in part because of retroactive provisions. Dickinson said the company's next stop will be in court.
“We look forward to next month’s hearing in the Maine Business Court where we will present our arguments that the initiative is unconstitutional and cannot be lawfully applied to stop this vital project,” Dickinson wrote.
Corridor opponent Tom Saviello, who helped write the referendum, said he is confident it will stand up in court.
“Even in her findings, they made the comment they did not believe they would prevail in the argument. But if they do prevail, there is a five-day window we can appeal and ultimately go to the law court if necessary,” Saviello said.
He said there is precedent on their side. And that the Dec. 15 hearing won’t be the last.
“Either way it's probably going to the law court. This is far from over,” he said.
The DEP said the NECEC can clean up and haul off any cut trees in the corridor and must take steps to stabilize disturbed areas. Aside from that, work on the new, 53-mile section will stop.
Company officials said this week most of that section of the corridor has already been cleared.