Staff at Maine's Land Use Planning Commission (LUPC) are recommending approval of Central Maine Power's (CMP) controversial proposal to build a new power line through Maine's western woods. An approval vote from the commission could come as soon as next week.
CMP is seeking local, state and federal approvals for the project, which would provide a high-voltage circuit for electricity from Hydro Quebec's dam system to serve a contract with Massachusetts utilities.
This week staff at Maine's Land Use Planning Commission recommended approval.
The staff's draft permit finds that CMP's preferred route would have a lesser impact on natural and scenic resources, including the Appalachian Trail, than would alternative routes the company considered.
Tom Saviello, a former lawmaker who is leading an effort to give state voters final say in a public referendum on the 141-mile project, says the LUPC staff are doing the best they can to protect state resources, given the statutory tools they have. And he says it's likely that the full LUPC Board of Commissioners will accept the staff recommendation.
"They're a bureaucratic board that is not elected by the people, they're appointed,” says Saviello. “It's time for this to go to the people for a vote; that's really what it comes down to."
The LUPC board could vote on the issue next week, while permit decisions by the Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are still pending. The drawn-out permit reviews have put CMP behind the schedule it committed to when signing contracts with Massachusetts utilities, but CMP says its has been granted a year-long extension.