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Maine Court Derails Transmission Project Ballot Question

Electricity lines.
Creative Commons

A decision Thursday from Maine's high court means voters in that state will not decide at the Nov. 3 election whether to reverse a utilities commission decision to approve a 145-mile transmission project critical to the Bay State's energy horizons. 

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court decision was a win for Avangrid Networks, which owns the Central Maine Power Company and is pushing to build a transmission system to help feed hydropower from Canada into New England, and to Massachusetts.

The New England Clean Energy Connect project is designed to run energy from the Canadian border down to Lewiston, Maine, and deliver 1,200 megawatts of electricity into the regional grid.

The decision effectively nullifies a June 29 Superior Court judgement in Maine that dismissed Avangrid's complaint and concluded the initiative petition's constitutionality was not subject to judicial review before the election.

"We conclude that the Superior Court erred by dismissing the declaratory judgment count of the complaint, and we therefore vacate that portion of the judgment and remand the matter for the Superior Court to enter a declaratory judgment that the initiative fails to meet the constitutional requirements for inclusion on the ballot because it exceeds the scope of the people's legislative powers conferred by article IV, part 3, section 18 of the Maine Constitution," the Maine SJC ruled Thursday.

The high court did not issue injunctive relief, it said, because Maine's secretary of state has expressed his willingness to heed the court's declaration.

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