Maine Congressman Jared Golden is calling for public input and for greater transparency as the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers considers permits for Central Maine Power Company's (CMP) controversial transmission line through western Maine. Golden has written a strongly worded letter to the Corps asking for at least one public hearing and for past communications with federal environmental regulators about the project.
In his letter, Democratic 2nd District Rep. Jared Golden writes that that Corps is the lead federal agency with jurisdiction over CMP's New England Clean Energy Connect project, and that he's concerned that his constituents' repeated requests for a public hearing are being denied.
"It is critical that Mainers are able to provide input and voice their opinions about the permitting of a project that will have significant environmental and economic consequences for their communities," Golden says. "To move forward in this process without holding a public hearing undermines the federal government's responsibility to take part in a meaningful process with the citizens it serves. "
"The congressman really, sort of hit the nail on the head with his letter, and we have shared a lot of these concerns," says Sue Ely, a clean energy attorney with the Natural Resources Council of Maine, which is also advocating for more transparency along with hundreds of others.
"The Army Corps process has been a very closed process,” Ely says. “They haven't conducted any public hearings, and they didn't even provide a link to a full application to review during the very short public comment window that they had over the summer."
Ely says the Corps' review is important because it includes a wide-ranging analysis of environmental impacts. In this case the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has previously raised concerns about how the Corps is dealing with the CMP project.
Congressman Golden says he wants the Corps' response and all other communications with EPA to be made public. He is also asking for at least one public hearing in western Maine, which Ely says is not unusual for federal agencies.
"There are two similar projects, the TDI project in Vermont and the Northern Pass project in New Hampshire, and both of those projects, which are the same thing — hydropower from Quebec down into Massachusetts — both those projects had numerous public hearings," Ely says.
A spokesperson for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Meanwhile, several other Maine agencies are also reviewing the project, which has recently been amended by CMP.
In a written statement, CMP said: “The New England Clean Energy Connect project is a clean energy game-changer that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and lower energy costs. We believe public discourse is critical to the process and that it is important that all points of view be heard and discussed....We look forward to continuing conversations about this project and its benefits as we work through the established permitting process.” Originally published Oct. 16, 2019 at 5:21 p.m. ET.