WASHINGTON, D.C., USA — The long-awaited and controversial New England Clean Energy Connect (NECEC) project has officially secured all major permitting, Central Maine Power (CMP) parent company Avangrid announced Friday.
But, Friday afternoon, a federal court issued an injunction, essentially forcing Avangrid to pause construction on a specific section of the project from Quebec to The Forks.
The U.S. First Circuit of Appeals issued an injunction against NECEC Friday while the court reviews an appeal of a specific permit through the Army Corps of Engineers.
Three groups who also oppose the project—The Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Council of Maine, and Appalachian Mountain Club—filed the appeal.
While the court reviews the appeal and decides, construction will be put on pause for 30 days, or until a decision has been made.
NECEC crews had already started prepping this controversial 54-mile stretch and planned to start work there this coming week. Now, they have to shift, and President and CEO of NECEC Thorn Dickinson says they'll see where else they can get started on construction in the meantime.
"This project has faced challenges really from the beginning, and I'm confident in the end, because of its significant benefits it has for Maine, both environmentally and economically, this is a project that will go forward," Dickinson told NEWS CENTER Maine Friday.
Sandi Howard of No CMP Corridor, one of the groups that opposes the project said, "The people of Maine want to be heard. Our allied partners want to have a thorough review process of this project and that looks like we're going to be getting that."
Opponents raised concerns about the approval process for the project’s permits.
The Presidential Permit from the U.S. Department of Energy, which was signed in Washington on Thursday, grants NECEC Transmission LLC the permission to construct, operate, maintain, and connect electric transmission facilities at the international border of the U.S. and Canada.
The groups opposed to the project say the project was not scrutinized with a thorough investigation of how the corridor would impact the environment, and say that the process did not incorporate a public comment period as other projects that get the Presidential Permit have.
Friday, Avangrid also announced plans to start construction, beginning with clearing activities and installation of temporary access roads to prepare for the installation of the monopoles that will carry the transmission line.
The $950 million project seeks to become the largest source of renewable energy in New England, which the company says will represent a fundamental shift away from fossil fuels while simultaneously lowering energy costs in Maine and New England.
The 145-mile transmission line will be built on land owned or controlled by CMP. A 54-mile stretch of the corridor from the Quebec border to The Forks will require a new, 50-foot wide path cut through forest and around mountains in a generally undeveloped and remote swath of Maine woods. That portion of the project has generated by far the most controversy.
Thorn Dickinson, vice president of Avangrid, has said they have already made significant changes to the project to accommodate some concerns.
But there is still major opposition to the project around Maine, led by the No CMP Corridor political action committee and the group called Say No to NECEC. They insist the project will cause irreparable damage to the area, harming tourism and wildlife and changing life for local residents.