CONTACT: Sandi Howard
Leases for CMP Corridor Under Assault In the Court and the Maine Legislature
Adverse decision in Maine Superior Court and incredibly damaging legislative hearing put CMP leases in serious jeopardy
Yesterday, Superior Court Judge Michaela Murphy found that leases of public lands for transmission lines are not “categorically exempt” from requiring 2/3 approval of the Legislature as CMP and the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands (BPL) tried to argue in order to allow the lease of 36 acres of public lands for the NECEC project. In a clear attempt to circumvent a required vote in the Maine Legislature, both the Mills and Lepage administrations negotiated leases with CMP to use public lands without seeking approval from the Legislature, as required under the Maine Constitution, claiming they had an exemption under the Maine Constitution from sending the leases for a vote in the legislature. Judge Murphy’s ruling clearly states that they did not enjoy such an exemption. Although the judge hasn’t made a finding as to whether the proposed use does in fact reduce or substantially alter the public lots, she has scheduled a conference with the Court next Wednesday, March 24 to discuss how that issue will be resolved, including whether she will hold an evidentiary hearing.
Former State Representative and Senator Tom Saviello said, “I’m incredibly pleased that Justice Murphy clarified that the CMP leases for the NECEC Corridor likely do require a ⅔ vote of the Legislature. Today, at the public hearing, the Bureau made it perfectly clear that they don’t consider the Legislature to be a partner in making these important decisions, but the Maine Constitution is abundantly clear that public lands cannot be altered or reduced without legislative approval.”
This morning the Joint Standing Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry held a public hearing on LD 471: An Act To Require Legislative Approval For Certain Leases of Public Lands. In that hearing, Andrew Cutko, Director of the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands refused to answer several questions from legislators regarding the approved leases for the NECEC project including:
“Can you tell us who may have initiated this renegotiation of the lease?” (Hall)
“I want to go back to the timeline, and my first question is, for the lease signed in June, when did the renegotiations start?” (O’Neil)
“Is it typical practice to not document such a high profile decision?” (O’Neil)
“Who in the Department was involved in this decision to go ahead with these leases?” (Underwood)
“Did you seek any outside council?” (O’Neil)
Senator Russel Black, sponsor of LD 471 in testimony remarked, “Our public lands are owned by us, the people of the state of Maine. These lands are a jewel in our State crown. We, the legislature, have a responsibility to protect them. We need to be sure it is being managed for Maine People as the Maine Constitution and Maine Statues intend.”
To watch Director Cutko’s testimony and answers to questions asked by committee members, please click the link below and forward to .
To read Judge Murphy’s decision in Black, et al., v. Cutko, et al.,please click here.