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Lawmakers To Consider Whether CMP's Transmission Project Required Legislative Approval

Fred Bever
Maine Public

The Legislature is considering a move to invalidate state land leases for Central Maine Power’s controversial plan to construct a power line through the state’s western woods.

The measure would allow legislative review of whether leases the state signed with CMP in 2014 and later amended were underpriced, at about $100 an acre. And it would force review of whether they should have been ratified by a vote of two-thirds of the Legislature.

That’s what the Maine Constitution requires for some state conservation lands when a “reduction or substantial alteration” of those lands would result.

Eliza Townsend, a policy director for the Appalachian Mountain Club and former commissioner of the state Department of Conservation, testified in favor.

“The Legislature at a minimum should enact a finding that a transmission line of such size and scale is a substantial alteration requiring the two-thirds vote set forth in the constitution,” she says.

In written testimony, CMP says that retroactive action by the Legislature to alter the existing leases would violate the state and U.S. constitutions.

Committee co-chairman Craig Hickman noted that the Legislature has the authority to directly ask the state’s Supreme Judicial Law Court to weigh in on the issue.

Further committee action on the proposal is pending.

A Columbia University graduate, Fred began his journalism career as a print reporter in Vermont, then came to Maine Public in 2001 as its political reporter, as well as serving as a host for a variety of Maine Public Radio and Maine Public Television programs. Fred later went on to become news director for New England Public Radio in Western Massachusetts and worked as a freelancer for National Public Radio and a number of regional public radio stations, including WBUR in Boston and NHPR in New Hampshire.