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The Rural Maine Reporting Project is made possible through the generous support of the Betterment Fund.

Battle over western Maine power corridor moves to a jury trial this week

Construction has started on Central Maine Power's corridor that is meant to carry hydroelectric power from Quebec through Maine to Massachusetts, although the project still faces legal challenges.
Brian Bechard
/
Maine Public
File photo of construction on Central Maine Power's corridor that is meant to carry hydroelectric power from Quebec through Maine to Massachusetts, but faces numerous legal challenges.

The battle over Central Maine Power's $1 billion transmission corridor has been fought in the Legislature, regulatory proceedings, and the ballot box. Now, the legal fight is moving to a jury trial.

A jury of nine Cumberland County residents could decide whether construction of the project can proceed despite being halted by voters in 2021.

Unlike previous fights, the trial that begins Monday at the state’s Business and Consumer Court in Portland won't be about the merits of the project, but rather, whether CMP had established what's known as vested rights before the referendum scuttled it.

An affirmative answer by the jury might allow CMP to resume construction, but opponents hope to convince jurors that the company expedited construction knowing that voters were poised to stop it.

The jury will pour over millions of pages of evidence and hear arguments from CMP and its competitors.

Closing arguments are scheduled for April 19, but a ruling might not end the legal wrangling over the project.

Journalist Steve Mistler is Maine Public’s chief politics and government correspondent. He is based at the State House.