Maine agency staff gives green light to transmission line

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — A rural zoning agency's staff has concluded that a proposed $1 billion transmission line aimed at bringing Canadian hydropower to the New England grid meets land use regulations.

The recommendation dated Monday comes ahead of a Jan. 8 meeting of the Maine Land Use Planning Commission, which tabled a previous discussion after a debate over whether a remote pond would be harmed.

Central Maine Power later amended its proposal to avoid the pond at a cost of about $1 million.

CMP's New England Clean Energy Connect would allow up to 1,200 megawatts of Canadian hydropower to reach the regional power grid to meet Massachusetts' green energy goals.

Critics of the proposal, who are pressing for a statewide vote, criticized the planning commission staff recommendation. Sandi Howard, co-leader of the No CMP Corridor referendum initiative, said the recommendation “devalues the importance of preserving Maine's natural, scenic, and recreational resources."

Under the proposal, most of the 145-mile (230-kilometer) transmission line would follow established utility corridors, but a new swath would be cut through 53 miles (85 kilometers) of wilderness in western Maine to the Canadian border on land that CMP owns.

Supporters say there will be benefits for all of New England by suppressing electricity rates and reducing carbon emissions by the equivalent of more than 700,000 vehicles.

The Maine Public Utilities Commission approved the project. But the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, Land Use Planning Commission and Army Corps of Engineers also have to weigh in.