Signatures filed for Maine ballot initiative to revoke certification of hydroelectric transmission project

Voters in Maine could decide a ballot initiative to revoke the certification of the New England Clean Energy Connect (NECEC) transmission corridor, which was designed to cross about 145 miles in Maine, from the state’s border with Quebec to Lewiston, Maine, and transmit around 1,200 megawatts from hydroelectric plants in Quebec to Massachusetts.

On February 3, 2020, the campaign No CMP Corridor filed 75,253 signatures for the ballot initiative with the office of Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap. At least 63,067 (83.8 percent) of the submitted signatures need to be valid. Dunlap has 30 days to review and validate signatures.

The signature deadline for 2020 initiatives in Maine was February 3. Signatures were not filed for any of the other three potential initiatives.

The State of Massachusetts proposed the NECEC transmission corridor, which is a joint project of Central Maine Power (CMP) and Hydro-Quebec. Massachusetts sought renewable generation and transmission projects to help meet the state’s renewable standards portfolio (RPS). CMP and Hydro-Quebec agreed to an incentives and benefits package worth $258 million, which would include funds for low-income electric consumer projects, rural broadband internet, electric vehicle charging stations, electric heat pumps, education grants, workforce development, and business retention. On May 3, 2019, the Maine Public Utilities Commission (PUC) provided NECEC with a certificate required to pursue the project’s construction. The ballot initiative seeks to have PUC revoke the certificate.

The campaign No CMP Corridor reported $78,715 in contributions through 2019. The largest contributions came from the nonprofit organizations Stop the Corridor and Say NO to NECEC. CMP organized the committee Clean Energy Matters, which reported $2.41 million in contributions, which came from CMP and CMP’s parent firm Avangrid.

In Maine, ballot initiatives are indirect, meaning the proposal would first go to the Maine State Legislature if enough signatures are valid. If the legislature approves the initiative, it becomes law. If the legislature does not act on the initiative or rejects it, the initiative goes on the ballot for November 3, 2020. Since 1995, Maine voters have approved 45 percent (18 of 40) of citizen-initiated statutes.

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