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Carol Howard of New Gloucester and Caratunk is a retired insurance account executive. She is a volunteer member of Say NO to NECEC, which is directed by her daughter, Sandi Howard.
I am one of hundreds of Mainers who helped collect over 80,000 signatures to get Question 1 on the 2021 ballot, and one of hundreds of thousands of Mainers who voted yes to reject the CMP corridor on Nov. 2.
For over two weeks since Election Day and Central Maine Power Co. continued to blaze a cut through western Maine. According to a recent poll, an overwhelming 64 percent of Maine voters — along with Gov. Janet Mills and Maine’s leading environmental organizations — believe that construction of the CMP corridor should be halted.
Even many of those who did not support the Question 1 ballot measure — including the Bangor Daily News and Portland Press Herald editorial boards and Mills — called on CMP to stop construction of their for-profit corridor. Recently, the Nature Conservancy in Maine, Conservation Law Foundation and Trout Unlimited proclaimed that CMP’s Conservation Plan at the Department of Environmental Protection is inadequate and should be rejected.
Mainers are likely disgusted that CMP’s parent company, Avangrid — also an owner of a number of gas companies — filed a lawsuit against the state of Maine over the referendum question and has been ignoring the clear will of Maine voters. We expected that because of CMP’s past bullying behavior.
On Friday, at the request of Mills, CMP agreed to temporarily halt construction while Avangrid’s lawsuit against the state of Maine is examined in court.
There’s still more to do. The Maine Department of Environmental Protection must permanently suspend the permit to ensure a continued halt in construction of the New England Clean Energy Connect at once because, as Mills stated in her recent letter to the company, CMP’s actions since Election Day were disrespectful. On Monday, Nov. 22, Mainers will have an opportunity to testify at the DEP to demand that construction stop immediately and highlight that the new law poses a significant change in circumstance to the permit. The DEP must act now to protect Maine’s environment from further unnecessary damage for a project that I believe is likely to be halted by the courts.
Currently, there are still state and federal permit appeals underway. The Black v. Cutko public lands appeal and several municipal permits have not been finalized, and, as of Dec. 19, construction of high impact transmission lines like this one will be illegal in the Upper Kennebec Region. Simply put, the CMP corridor is in trouble on many fronts.
The DEP suspension hearing proceedings and the Natural Resources Council of Maine’s new motion for a stay of the DEP permit have not been resolved. Appeals filed at the DEP over 18 months ago have not been addressed and this is inexcusable.
In recent months, CMP continued to carve up western Maine’s environment and natural resources causing irreparable harm. According to the DEP website, the department “is responsible for protecting and restoring Maine’s natural resources and enforcing the state’s environmental laws.” So, when will the DEP step up and protect Maine’s environment by halting construction of CMP’s destructive corridor? We certainly can’t rely on CMP’s word to maintain a stop in construction.
CMP spent millions of dollars on an ad campaign all while thousands of Mainers continue to have poor service and the longest power restoration times in the country. It appears that CMP and its foreign-owned parent companies are more interested in their profits than repairing the existing inadequate infrastructure in Maine.
The message Maine voters sent on Nov. 2 was strong and we will not tolerate the CMP’s arrogance to move forward with the NECEC corridor. As state Rep. Nicole Grohoski of Ellsworth said at a recent news conference, “It is time for CMP to do right by this state and by their own customers. Stop construction immediately. To do otherwise is an affront to Maine people and our right to self-governance.”
Thankfully, the people of Maine have allies in the Maine Legislature. Now, we demand that the DEP stop the CMP corridor and abide by the will of Maine voters.