The parent company of Central Maine Power asked the state’s high court on Wednesday to overrule a judge’s decision to let a ballot question opposing the utility’s corridor proposal go to voters in November.
The move from Avangrid, a U.S. subsidiary of the Spanish utility giant Iberdrola, was expected and is the latest in a series of legal volleys on both sides of the charged debate over the $1 billion project that would bring Canadian hydropower to the regional grid through western Maine.
In a Wednesday appeal to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, Avangrid asked the justices to overturn a Monday decision from Superior Court judge Thomas Warren, who refused to remove a question from the November ballot asking voters to overturn regulatory approval of the project.
CMP has argued that the question is unconstitutional because the proposed law would single them out when laws must apply evenly. Secretary of State Matt Dunlap has argued that while voters may not have the power to decide the issue, they should still be allowed to vote on it. Warren agreed, saying the legal questions can be addressed if it passes.
Avangrid’s appeal asks the high court to decide the issue quickly, before Dunlap must begin printing ballots for the November election. The court is typically loath to both overturn lower-court decisions and intervene in political disputes before a scheduled election.
There is precedent in Maine for adjusting or not enforcing voter-approved laws that do not pass constitutional muster. In 2016, voters passed a ranked-choice voting law that was only implemented after tweaks from the Legislature. This year, the state said it would not enforce a residency requirement for a new recreational marijuana program with roots in a 2016 vote.
This is also one of several lawsuits to date affecting the corridor referendum. An opposing group is suing the state in a bid to shield its donors from Maine’s campaign finance regulator, while another is arguing that a key state lease that was recently renegotiated by CMP and the administration of Gov. Janet Mills required legislative approval.