Maine transmission line company files lawsuit over constitutionality of Question 1

Voters in Maine approved Question 1 on November 2. The citizen-initiated ballot measure received 59% of the vote with 97% of precincts reporting. Question 1 was designed to stop the New England Clean Energy Connect (NECEC), a 145-mile long, high-voltage transmission line project that would transmit around 1,200 megawatts from hydroelectric plants in Quebec to electric utilities in Massachusetts and Maine. Construction of NECEC began after the project received a presidential permit on January 15, 2021. The ballot initiative prohibited the construction of high-impact electric transmission lines in the Upper Kennebec Region, retroactive to September 16, 2020, thus prohibiting Segment 1 of NECEC. Segment 1 was permitted to begin construction on May 13, 2021.

NECEC, LLC, along with parent firm Avangrid Networks, LLC, filed a lawsuit on November 3, stating that Question 1 was unconstitutional. NECEC and Avangrid argued that Question 1 violated the separation of powers between the legislative, executive, and judicial branches; infringed upon the sanctity of contracts; and violated the company’s vested right to construct and complete the project in good faith. The lawsuit stated, “Any other conclusion would render any major development project in the State – in fact, any effort by any person or business in the State to build any project, no matter how big or how small – vulnerable to discriminatory and prejudicial efforts to kill the project by after-the-fact changes to the law. Such retroactive deprivation of vested rights is contrary to the fundamental principles of fairness and equity embodied in Maine law.”

Sandra Howard, director of No CMP Corridor, responded, “Despite an onslaught of money that CMP, Hydro Quebec and their assortment of front groups interjected into this campaign, the people of Maine strongly and clearly rejected the NECEC project at the ballot box. CMP should respect the vote of Maine citizens and immediately stop the continued destruction of our precious forest and its habitat.”

Question 1 was the most expensive ballot measure in Maine history. Between supporters and opponents, $98.41 million was raised. The PACs No CMP Corridor, Mainers for Local Power, and NRCM Yes on Question 1 registered to support the ballot initiative. Together, the PACs had raised $27.64 million, including

  • $20.20 million from NextEra Energy Resources, LLC, which owns a natural gas-fired plant in Cumberland, Maine, and six solar fields or projects in southern and central Maine;
  • $3.61 million from Vistra Energy Corp., which owns a natural gas-fired plant in Veazie, Maine; and
  • $3.26 million from Calpine Corp., which owns a natural gas-fired plant in Westbrook, Maine.

Clean Energy Matters, Hydro-Québec Maine Partnership, Vote No to Protect Maine, and Mainers for Fair Laws were registered to oppose the ballot initiative. Together, the PACs had raised $70.77 million, including

  • $48.45 million from Central Maine Power (CMP), NECEC Transmission LLC, and the companies’ parent firm Avangrid; and
  • $19.94 million from H.Q. Energy Services (U.S.) Inc., which was a subsidiary of Hydro-Québec.