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It could be a pivotal week for CMP's stalled power corridor

Robert F. Bukaty
Workers connect a section of the first pole of Central Maine Power's controversial hydropower transmission corridor, Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021, near The Forks, Maine. The pole was erected on an existing corridor that had been widened near Moxie Pond.

This could be a pivotal week for Central Maine Power's big power line project.

On Tuesday, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court will hear arguments in which CMP will ask the justices to throw out the result of a referendum last year that sought to halt the project. CMP is appealing a lower court decision to invalidate leases of public lands in the Forks area the company needed for its preferred route, in part because the Legislature did not get a chance to weigh in on the leases as required by the state Constitution.

If the order is upheld, CMP would have to go back to the drawing board to devise a new route and seek permit adjustments or new permits, which opponents believe would effectively kill the project.

Later this week, the Board of Environmental Protection will take up CMP's appeal of a ruling that denied it access to a stretch of land in the transmission line's path. CMP's parent company, Avangrid Networks and project electricity-supplier Hydro-Quebec are challenging the validity of last year's public referendum, in which state voters overwhelmingly approved a measure designed to deny a state permit for the project, retroactively.

Adverse rulings on either front could kill the project, despite the fact CMP began clearing land for it last year.

A decision could come in late summer.

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.