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Environment and Outdoors

CMP's rapid buildout of its controversial powerline gains momentum, days ahead of a statewide referendum

CMP corridor construction
Brian Bechard
Maine Public
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 numerous legal and other challenges.

Central Maine Power's rapid buildout of its disputed powerline through western Maine continues to gather momentum, just days ahead of a statewide referendum that aims to terminate the project.

The utility's parent company, Avangrid, is the American arm of Spain-based energy giant Iberdrola. During an earnings call on Wednesday, CEO Dennis Arriola says he is confident the CMP project will clear the various hurdles it still faces in court, at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and, next Tuesday, at the ballot box.

And he's telling investors that confidence is reflected in money already spent on project construction, which hit the $400 million mark last month.

"We're making good progress. Over 75% of the corridor has been cleared, with the majority of the transmission line going through existing rights of way. And around a hundred poles have been installed so far," Arriola says.

Some project opponents say CMP's full-on construction effort is aimed, at least in part, at establishing a legal foundation for arguing that its "vested interest" in the project should outweigh any decision by the courts, voters or the Legislature that ostensibly would stop it.

Arriola also told investors that early next year he expects Maine regulators to lift a penalty on CMP's allowed profits that they imposed for the company's service failures. He says the company is now exceeding its service quality metrics. He did not mention that last month members of the Maine Public Utilities Commission voiced strong skepticism that CMP would maintain that service record, and opened an investigation of the company's management structure.