AUGUSTA, Maine — The U.S. Senate candidate who teased a lawsuit against the Central Maine Power corridor in an odd and bombastic debate performance filed a Tuesday complaint dismissed by a project proponent as “a political document, not a legal document.”
The move from independent Max Linn of Bar Harbor, who is running against Republican Sen. Susan Collins, House Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, and Solon educator Lisa Savage in the November election, is intended to leverage the unpopularity of the proposed $1 billion project through western Maine that would bring Quebec hydropower to the regional grid.
The corridor is tracking toward approval after the Maine Public Utilities Commission permitted the project last year. Last month, the state’s high court removed a referendum from the November ballot that aimed to halt the project, deeming it unconstitutional. Two other legal challenges remain, but the project is only awaiting federal permits.
Linn’s filing to the Maine Public Utilities Commission is not a lawsuit, though the candidate could bring one later. Rather, this kind of so-called “10-person complaint” is a mechanism in state law that allows customers to petition the commission to fix service or rate issues with a utility.
The candidate and nine allies — all but one of whom live outside CMP’s coverage area — are using it in an unusual fashion to ask Maine utilities regulators to halt approval of the project until “scenic and recreational costs” of the project can be calculated and repaid to Mainers, according to the complaint from George Marcus and John Doyle, Linn’s Portland-based lawyers.
The utility has 10 days to respond to the complaint. The commission must make a decision on it within nine months. A CMP spokeswoman said Tuesday the utility had not yet been served with the complaint, but noted that permitting processes had taken scenic impact into account.
Marcus said it was an example of “a utility imposing costs on all Mainers” that can be redressed under the law, but Tony Buxton, a lawyer who lobbies for a group of large energy users who back the corridor, expected Linn’s complaint to be turned back by the commission.
He said the candidate “isn’t raising any new information” not considered by regulators already, noting that the permitting process at the commission has long been over.
“I would say this is filed by a candidate for the United States Senate and this is a political document, not a legal document,” he said.
Linn is a longshot candidate in the November election who largely ignored questions to talk about issues of his choice at the first debate of the race on Friday hosted by News Center Maine, the Bangor Daily News and the Portland Press Herald. In what became a high-profile moment, he told a moderator “request denied” when she asked him to stay on topic.