Power Lines Through Maine Woods Get a Jolt From First Circuit

Courthouse News Service BOSTON (CN) — A controversial proposal to build more than 50 miles of hydroelectric power lines through western Maine’s pristine wilderness got a mostly positive reception from the First Circuit at oral arguments Tuesday, although the federal agency supporting it appeared to shoot itself in the foot. Even though the Department of Energy OK’d the project after performing an environmental analysis, challengers with the Sierra Club told the court that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers shouldn’t have greenlighted it without conducting its own study. The three-judge panel presiding over the Sierra Club’s appeal Tuesday seemed perplexed and annoyed that, rather than just saying that it relied on the Energy Department’s analysis, the Corps kept arguing that it didn’t have to do one. Continue reading

Lawyers clash over $1B hydropower transmission corridor

Bangor Daily News This Tuesday, May 28, 2019 photo shows the view of Attean Pond from a roadside rest area in Jackman, Maine. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / AP BOSTON — Attorneys for conservation organizations and an electric utility clashed Tuesday before a federal appeals court over the adequacy of environmental reviews of a key portion of a power transmission project in western Maine. An attorney for three conservation groups disputed the thoroughness of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and suggested its review was handled differently from those of other projects. But Central Maine Power said the federal agency properly found there was no significant impact. The Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Council of Maine and the Appalachian Mountain Club are seeking to stop the New England Clean Energy Connect while they pursue a lawsuit seeking a more comprehensive environmental review by the Army Corps of Engineers. Continue reading

What Maine is doing to tamp down the worst power outages in the nation

Bangor Daily News Maine continues to top most other states in the number and duration of power outages caused primarily by severe weather and downed trees, but regulators and utilities are aiming to improve upon that dubious distinction. The state ranked first nationally in its average of four outages per year and second in outage duration of 14 hours annually over a five-year period from 2015 to 2019, a recently released analysis of federal data by electric automation company MRO Electric found. Outages are counted if they last more than five minutes. Even when discounting severe weather, Maine still ranked first in outages and second in duration, indicating the weather is not merely to blame and the state can improve network reliability. Continue reading

Canada and US First Nations unite Against Hydro-Québec

CISION PR News Wire American and Canadian First Nations call on Biden and Trudeau to block Hydro-Québec's plan to build a transmission line to Massachusetts March 30, 2021 · INDIAN ISLAND ME - The Penobscot Nation of Maine, supported in Labrador by Innu Nation and in Quebec by the First Nations of Pessamit (Innu), Wemotaci (Atikamekw), Pikogan, Kitcisakik and Lac Simon (Anishnabek), have written to the White House and to the Prime Minister of Canada to denounce Hydro-Québec's plan to build a hydroelectric transmission line through Maine to Massachusetts. Together, they are asking President Biden and Prime Minister Trudeau to halt initiatives that would see the state-owned utility make billions of dollars in profits without consulting or compensating the First Nations on whose ancestral territories its electricity is produced and through which it will be transported Hydro-Québec plans to transmit its hydroelectricity via the proposed Appalaches-Maine Interconnection Power Line Project to the U.S. border and then through the New England Clean Energy Connect (NECEC) transmission line, which, once built, would connect to the New England grid. Many First Nations in Canada and the United States would be directly affected by these projects. Continue reading

Appeals court hears arguments in CMP power line case

Portland Press Herald Questions about whether two federal agencies each conducted deep enough reviews of Central Maine Power’s controversial power line project in western Maine, and whether those agencies should have worked more closely together, dominated testimony Tuesday in a complex case before the First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston. At issue is whether the appeals court should reconsider the rejection in December of an injunction request in U.S. District Court aimed at blocking construction on a segment of the New England Clean Energy Connect project. Continue reading

$1B Power Line Foes Target Approval Of Cross-Border Permit

Law 360 (March 29, 2021, 4:21 PM EDT) Opponents of a proposed $1 billion transmission line that would ship hydropower from Quebec to New England want to expand their challenge of federal approvals to include the presidential, cross-border permit issued in the final days of the Trump administration. The Appalachian Mountain Club, Natural Resources Council of Maine, and Maine chapter of the Sierra Club on Friday urged a Maine federal court to let them add the U.S. Department of Energy to their complaint challenging the Army Corps of Engineers' approval of the New England Clean Energy Connect project. Like the Corps, the DOE failed to adequately review the environmental impacts of the NECEC project, the environmental groups allege. The agency also issued the presidential permit for the projecton Jan. 14 without seeking sufficient public comment, the groups said. The groups' motion and proposed amended complaint came 11 days after they sent a letter to Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm urging her to rescind the permit or suspend it while conducting a more thorough environmental review. At issue is the $1 billion NECEC project spearheaded by Avangrid utility subsidiary Central Maine Power. The project includes a segment that starts at the U.S.-Canada border that would be an entirely new transmission corridor in Maine, cutting through previously untouched forest land. If completed, the project would deliver 1,200 megawatts of Canadian hydropower to the New England grid after routing through Lewiston, Maine. The project has been challenged on multiple fronts, on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border. The AMC, NRCMC and Sierra Club Maine sued the Corps in October, claiming the agency unlawfully botched its approval process when it issued a finding of no significant environmental impacts, despite what the groups called a secretive approval process that avoided public comment. The DOE made similar errors in issuing its own finding of no significant environmental impacts, the groups said in their proposed amended complaint filed Friday. The agency failed to take a "hard look" at the project's direct and indirect impacts, as well as greenhouse gas emissions impacts and cumulative environmental impacts, the proposed amended complaint said. "In addition, DOE's [environmental assessment] relies on the Corps' EA which was itself significantly flawed," the groups said in their proposed amended complaint. What's more, the DOE released its EA on the same day it issued the cross-border permit, withoutputting it out for public comment, the groups said in their proposed amended complaint. That's incontrast to more-stringent environmental impact statements the agency prepared for other cross-border transmission projects into New England, the groups said. Sierra Club Maine has separately sued the DOE for the disclosure of information related to the project. The agency is in the process of turning over that information, according to court records.A day after the DOE issued the presidential permit for the NECEC project, the First Circuit blockedconstruction on an undeveloped segment of the project. The appeals court is mulling the environmental groups' appeal of the lower court's refusal to grant a preliminary injunction, and oral arguments are scheduled for this Tuesday.The NRCM declined to comment on its latest district court filings on Monday, saying they speak for themselves. A DOE representative couldn't be immediately reached for comment Monday. The groups are represented by Lia Comerford and Kevin Cassidy of Lewis & Clark Law School's Earthrise Law Center and Natural Resources Council of Maine staff attorney Susan Ely. The federal government is represented by Amanda M. Stoner and Kristofor Swanson of the Natural Resources Section and Benjamin Carlisle of the Environmental Defense Section of the U.S. Department of Justice's Environment and Natural Resources Division.Central Maine and NECEC, which have intervened on behalf of the Corps, are represented by Matthew D. Manahan, Joshua D. Dunlap and Lisa A. Gilbreath of Pierce Atwood LLP. The case is Sierra Club et al. v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers et al., case number 2:20-cv-00396 inthe U.S. District Court for the District of Maine.--Additional reporting by Clarke Mindock. Editing by Kelly Duncan.

Maine power line foes sue federal energy department

Portland Press Herald The Appalachian Mountain Club, Natural Resources Council of Maine and Sierra Club Maine say the department erred in issuing a permit for the New England Clean Energy Connect project. Three large conservation groups in Maine are adding the U.S. Department of Energy to their lawsuit challenging what they allege are flawed federal permits granted to Central Maine Power for its controversial transmission line project. Continue reading

Environmental groups target CMP corridor’s presidential permit in new court filing

Bangor Daily News Three of Maine’s largest conservation groups filed a motion Friday in a federal court to add the U.S. Department of Energy to their earlier lawsuit challenging federal permits that were granted to Central Maine Power for its controversial hydropower transmission project. The Appalachian Mountain Club, the Natural Resources Council of Maine and the Sierra Club Maine said the department erred in issuing the presidential permit for the New England Clean Energy Connect project without first allowing for public comment and not thoroughly assessing the environmental impact in a new motion with the U.S. District Court in Maine. The groups said the department conducted multiple public hearings and more rigorous reviews for similar projects in Vermont and New Hampshire. Continue reading

CONSERVATION GROUPS MOVE TO ADD U.S. DOE TO CMP CORRIDOR LAWSUIT

Natural Resources Council of Maine March 29, 2021 (Augusta, ME) – Three of Maine’s largest conservation groups have moved to add the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to their lawsuit challenging the flawed federal permits that were granted to Central Maine Power (CMP) for its controversial transmission line project. DOE’s substandard review of the project has come under scrutiny because the Trump Administration rushed to issue a presidential permit just days before President Biden was inaugurated. In doing so, DOE violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Administrative Procedure Act by issuing a flawed Environmental Assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact (EA/FONSI), by failing to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), and by failing to comply with NEPA’s public participation requirements. Although it falls within its role and mission, DOE also did not perform an independent analysis of the project’s impacts on greenhouse gas emissions. Continue reading

3.28.21

Hello Friend, Two weeks ago, the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee held public hearings on three bills aimed at closing the loophole Hydro-Quebec has been exploiting to funnel millions of dollars into Maine’s referendum elections. As a corporation owned solely by a foreign government, HQ’s spending is rightfully illegal in other elections, but as it stands right now, the law is silent when it comes to referendum elections. As reported last week, the Committee heard from many of our activists in support of the measures before them and Hydro-Quebec’s President and CEO, Sophie Brochu, testified in opposition.  In a strange turn of events, CMP’s David Flanagan opted to communicate with the committee, not through the public hearing process where lawmakers have the opportunity to ask questions and engage with in an open conversation, but rather through a column placed in the Lewiston Sun Journal the next day.  In his column, Flanagan said that lawmakers’ efforts to close this dangerous loophole are fueled by the desire to “win by cheating Mainers out of hearing what may very well be the truth,” and he went on to say that if the Legislature acts now to enact a law protecting Mainer voters from foreign government interference in our elections, it would be “discriminatory”, even though they are already prohibited in engaging with the voters of this country in literally every other form of election. Flanagan ends by saying, “Voting down these bills will help guarantee that the future of Maine remains bright, clear and boundless.”  Continue reading