BOSTON — Opponents of a 145-mile electricity transmission corridor aimed at bringing Canadian hydropower to the New England grid are asking a federal appeals court to delay construction set to begin in January.
Denied a preliminary injunction by a federal judge last week in Maine, three conservation groups filed the new request late Wednesday [December 30, 2020] with the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston.
They contend the federal judge's ruling was too narrow and overlooked potential environmental harms. They asked for a ruling by Jan. 15.
"These harms are not imagined, speculative, or remote; there is no dispute that the cleared corridor and related infrastructure are permanent or at least of long duration,” their appeal said.
Thorn Dickinson, CEO and president of project developer NECEC LLC., called the 11th-hour legal maneuver a “desperate effort” and said workers intend to break ground “in the coming weeks.”
The Sierra Club, Appalachian Mountain Club and Natural Resources Council want the Army Corps of Engineers, which approved the project, to conduct a more rigorous environmental impact statement instead of the less-stringent environmental assessment.
The $1 billion New England Clean Energy Connect would provide a conduit for up to 1,200 megawatts of Canadian hydropower to reach the New England power grid. Much of the project would follow existing utility corridors but a new swath would be cut through 53 miles (85 kilometers) of wilderness.
Supporters say the project would reduce greenhouse emissions and stabilize energy costs in the region. Critics say that the benefits are overstated and that the project would destroy unspoiled wilderness.
The Army Corps gave its approval in November and the project previously received approval from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, Maine Land Use Planning Commission and Maine Public Utilities Commission.
That leaves a “presidential permit” issued by the U.S. Department of Energy for the cross-border connection as the only hurdle.