A second referendum campaign against Central Maine Power’s powerline project is kicking off in a climate as politically fraught as it was a year ago. No CMP Corridor, one of a group opposed to the corridor, is expected to have petitions in hand today and will be able to circulate them on Election Day. This effort, unlike one pulled from the 2020 ballot because it was deemed unconstitutional, is focused on pressuring the new Legislature to block the project.
It could ultimately run into similar questions of citizens’ and lawmakers’ ability to overturn executive branch decisions. But efforts to block the project may get more traction in Augusta next year than they have to date. Candidates in the upcoming election — particularly for Maine Senate seats — are overwhelmingly opposed to the project in its current form.
It comes as the role of outside groups in the project continues to play out in the legal realm. The Maine Ethics Commission will mull today whether to retract its demand that Stop the Corridor, a dark-money group that has funded anti-corridor efforts, reveal sources of funding to commission staff as a lawsuit the group brought to prevent that from happening continues.
At the same time, CMP’s parent company, Avangrid, has gone on the offensive against one of its biggest competitors funding opposition to the group. It filed a federal complaint this month accusing NextEra Energy Resources, a large Florida-based utility who owns power plants in Maine and New Hampshire, of hampering the project. The complaint already has several intervenors, including CMP’s project partner, Hydro-Quebec and a regional group representing New England governors’ interest in electricity prices.
Also in the balance is a decision from a Superior Court judge on whether the state should have sent a controversial land lease to the Legislature. That decision is expected sometime this month after arguments were heard last week. Major federal permits have yet to be awarded, but environmental groups are preemptively challenging the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for not conducting a more rigorous review of the project. Many balls are in the air here.