The political conversation around the controversial hydropower corridor proposal will not be going away anytime soon. The Maine Supreme Judicial Court’s ruling last month that a 2020 referendum effort to block Central Maine Power’s New England Clean Energy Connect project was unconstitutional was a major blow to opponents. Before Wednesday, it seemed as though the narrow path for opponents of the project went through the Maine courts.
But they filed a second referendum bid, this time with the aim of pressuring the Legislature into effectively voting down the corridor. It would require the Maine Legislature to take a two-thirds vote to approve any transmission lines in the future and require another two-thirds vote to approve the use of public lands for projects including this $1 billion corridor.
This try builds on the premise of a lawsuit from opponents who say the Legislature had to approve a key Somerset County land lease. While it attempts to sidestep issues that led the high court to rule the first bid unconstitutional, it could run into similar problems if tested in the courts since justices warded off power to veto executive branch decisions.
One way or another, the referendum will put pressure on lawmakers over the next year. Opponents are assured to put in 2021 bills on the topic that could serve as litmus tests, while leading lawmakers are going to have to answer more questions about their support of the project, which opponents think is unpopular enough with Mainers to inspire change.