Controversial Maine electric power line gets remaining federal permit, but suffers setback in court docket

George T. Taft

Avangrid has landed the last significant permit that the power organization essential to establish a 145-mile power line that would provide hydroelectricity from Canada to Massachusetts, through western Maine.

But a major setback arrived in advance of executives at the Orange, Conn.-centered enterprise had time to rejoice, just after profitable a Presidential Allow on Thursday from the US Division of Vitality. The To start with Circuit Court docket of Appeals on Friday authorised an injunction that quickly helps prevent any construction on a 53-mile forested portion of the project’s path, a “new corridor” devoid of current transmission strains.

The whirlwind 24 hrs for Avangrid exemplifies the two-techniques-forward, just one-step-back character of this massive $1 billion undertaking. Recognised as the New England Clean Electrical power Link, it has divided Mainers: Some see economic advantages, whilst other people be concerned about a despoiled wilderness. It has also break up the environmental local community, with some extolling the virtues of hydropower and many others decrying the effects on Maine’s North Woods.

Thorn Dickinson, vice president of organization enhancement at Avangrid, said the enterprise initially prepared to get started development in the new-corridor space. But Avangrid will now shift its crews to places to the south the place it already has existing traces, when waiting for the issue to be fixed in the courts. He said he expects the 1,200-megawatt venture to be done by mid-2023.

“This project has faced a range of worries [but] our belief is that the major financial and environmental positive aspects genuinely keep on being solid,” Dickinson claimed.

Among other rewards from the job, Dickinson pointed to thousands and thousands of dollars in home taxes, millions much more in fiber-optic lines to increase broadband service, and an typical of 1,600 development employment above the following two a long time. “Those folks … are staying in inns, ingesting at dining places, filling up with fuel,” he reported. “The financial stimulus is coming at a time when the condition can genuinely use it.”

But Sue Ely, an lawyer with the Natural Means Council of Maine, mentioned the added benefits do not outweigh the downsides. “Our biggest environmental problem remains: the fragmentation of Maine’s North Woods,” Ely stated. “More opposition has grown [as] folks have come to be knowledgeable of just how valuable the North Woods are in its existing state, for habitat as effectively as financial things to do.”

Ely, whose group was between the plaintiffs that sought a courtroom purchase to block development, accused the federal govt of rushing the permit course of action and conducting substantially of it at the rear of shut doors in coordination with Avangrid’s Central Maine Power subsidiary.

Avangrid dodged a probably lethal public referendum on the job last calendar year, when a condition court determination abruptly ended that effort. But the appellate court ruling on Friday underscores the lingering threats posed by litigation and other opposition endeavours from environmental businesses as properly as rival power plant owner NextEra.

It is not misplaced on quite a few Maine critics that the cause this electric power line is staying designed at all is to serve Massachusetts shoppers.

The project’s financing relies on a cleanse-electricity law passed by the Massachusetts Legislature in 2016 and championed by the Baker administration that necessitates the state’s a few huge electric utilities to acquire a important amount of electric power from offshore wind and dams in Canada.

Eversource initially received the bidding for the energy line to connect with Hydro-Quebec facilities, to create its extensive-planned Northern Pass line by New Hampshire. But allowing complications rapidly sank that program in 2018. Baker’s team, along with Eversource and two other utilities, shifted to the Maine undertaking as a backup. Eversource, Countrywide Grid, and Unitil finally signed 20-yr contracts to purchase most of the electric power to be sent by the NECEC line, on behalf of their Massachusetts customers.

Jon Chesto can be attained at Abide by him on Twitter @jonchesto.

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