Measure That Would Effectively Kill CMP Project Gets Tepid Nod From Legislative Committee

May 15, 2019

A legislative committee gave tepid approval Wednesday to a measure that could effectively kill Central Maine Power's controversial proposal for a high-voltage transmission line through western Maine.

As amended, the bill would require approval from two-thirds of municipalities that would host "high-impact" transmission projects, such as CMP's billion-dollar, 141-mile power line. It would also require tangible benefits to the state of significantly higher value than what CMP has offered.

The utility first applied for state permits in 2017. To ensure that municipalities would be able to weigh in now, Representative Christina Riley, a Jay Democrat who sits on the Legislature's Joint Committee on Energy, Utilities and Technology, says the measure should be retroactive.

"I know that my constituents are furious about this, and I think that the pending piece of legislation is imperfect, but it answers to the concerns of my constituents," Riley says.

Some Jay residents are calling on the local select board to rescind its initial support for the project – just as more than a dozen host communities have already done. But some Committee members say it is unfair to change the rules of the game mid-stream – which would send a bad message to the business community.

Rep. Chris Caiazzo is a Scarborough Democrat.

"If we're constantly moving goal posts and constantly changing rules the impact of that – and we will never hear about it directly – people just will not come and do business in the state," Caiazzo says.

The Committee voted to recommend the measure to the full Legislature on a vote of 7-to-5. It will get its first votes in the House.