Central Maine Power's controversial power line project took a hit in court on Wednesday, with a superior court judge ruling late in the afternoon that the state did not follow the law when it leased state lands for the project. That ruling could put the fate of that lease in the Legislature's hands.
The case concerns public reserve land that the state Bureau of Parks and Lands leased to CMP for the project without first making a formal determination that it would not "substantially alter" use of those lands.
Justice Michaela Murphy ruled that that the bureau should have made that determination one way or another. And if the determination is that there would a substantial alteration in use, she says, the state Constitution requires the lease to be approved by two-thirds of both houses of the Legislature.
Nick Bennett is a scientist with the Natural Resources Council of Maine, one of the parties that brought the suit.
"This ruling from the court vindicates what NRCM and the other plaintiffs have been saying all along, which is that the Bureau of Parks and Lands needs to make a finding for a project like the CMP corridor," Bennett says.
Next steps for the parties were not immediately clear, with the judge calling for a conference next week. CMP and state officials were not immediately available for comment.