Signatures verified for Maine ballot initiative designed to void international hydroelectric transmission project

A citizen initiative to void a certificate needed for an international hydroelectric transmission project will go on the ballot unless the state legislature approves it.

The campaign No CMP Corridor filed 75,253 signatures on February 3. Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap (D) reported that 69,714 signatures were valid. At least 63,067 signatures needed to be verified. As citizen-initiated statutes are indirect in Maine, the state legislature has the option to approve the proposal before the end of this year’s legislative session, which is expected to adjourn on April 15, 2020. Otherwise, the proposal will appear on the ballot for the general election on November 3, 2020.

The ballot measure would require the Maine Public Utilities Commission to reverse an order made on May 3, 2019, that provided the New England Clean Energy Connect (NECEC) transmission project with a certificate of public convenience and necessity. In Maine, a certificate of public convenience and necessity is required before constructing a transmission line capable of operating at 69 kilovolts or more. The NECEC transmission project was designed to cross about 145 miles in Maine, from the state’s border with Quebec to Lewiston, and transmit around 1,200 megawatts from hydroelectric plants in Quebec to electric utilities in Massachusetts.

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.

The campaign No CMP Corridor, and allied PAC Mainers for Local Power, raised $198,912 through 2019. The largest contribution was $110,287 from Calpine Corp., which owns a natural gas plant in Westbrook, Maine. Clean Energy Matters is leading the campaign in opposition to the ballot initiative. Hydro-Québec Maine Partnership is also funding an effort opposed to the measure. Together, the opposition committees raised $2.41 million, which came from Central Maine Power (CMP) and CMP’s parent firm Avangrid.

The citizen-initiated statute is the only one that may appear on the Maine ballot in 2020. The signature deadline for initiated statutes was February 3, 2020. The campaigns behind veto referendums, including one to overturn a law expanding ranked-choice voting to presidential elections, have until 90 days after the 2020 legislative session adjourns to file signatures. The legislature can also refer constitutional amendments and bond measures to the November ballot.

Additional reading: