Parties for and against a deal that would add financial and other perks to Central Maine Power’s proposed $1 billion hydro power transmission line through western Maine are airing their arguments Thursday before the Maine Public Utilities Commission.
The deal, known as a stipulation, would be attached to a certificate of public necessity that CMP is seeking from the utilities commission as one of several approvals it needs for the project. The Department of Environmental Protection and other regulators still must give the project their stamp.
A wide-ranging group of 10 supporters, including Gov. Janet Mills, has backed the stipulation, which was filed with the commission on Feb. 21. About two-thirds of the parties involved in the CMP case either oppose or have not taken a position on it.
The commission is hearing comments from the official parties to the case regarding the stipulation. The hearing is scheduled to run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. today at the commission’s headquarters in Hallowell.
“Proponents will go first and have 10 minutes each for their arguments,” hearing examiner Mitch Tannenbaum said. “Then opponents can argue for 10 minutes each. Then parties who have not taken a position can argue for 10 minutes each.”
After that, each party has an opportunity for a five-minute rebuttal.
Tannenbaum said he does not expect all 30 parties to the case to speak.
“Twenty might speak,” he said.
The 40-page agreement calls for a $50 million low-income customer benefits fund, a $140 million rate relief fund, a $10 million broadband fund, a $15 million heat pump fund and $10 million from Hydro-Quebec for electric vehicles.
The deal is aimed at quelling complaints that the transmission line, which extends 145 miles from Hydro-Quebec’s dam system at the Canadian border to Lewiston, doesn’t benefit Mainers adequately. The project, known as the New England Clean Energy Connect, would deliver electricity to Massachusetts to help that state achieve its clean energy goals.
Contrary to information being circulated by some citizen groups, there will be no citizen group meeting on Friday. Instead, people can attend today’s meeting and listen to the proceedings, but not participate in them. The meeting also will be streamed live on the commission’s website.
There were 1,240 public comments about the project on the website as of Thursday morning.
The commission already held three public hearings, but the comments have continued pouring onto the website.
Tannenbaum said all comments are being read by commissioners and staff members.
“There is no hearing scheduled for the public [as of now],” he said. “But every commissioner and staff member reads every public comment. They are taken into account.
“The issues in the case will be decided on their merits, not on who says what,” he said.
The staff will write an Examiners’ Report, which he said is essentially a recommended decision, after reviewing all the issues. That report is due on March 18. The deadline was extended from March 1 because of the stipulation.