November 12, 2020 (Augusta, ME) — Three conservation groups have asked a federal judge to halt Central Maine Power’s (CMP) premature plans to begin construction on its controversial transmission line.
The Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC), Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM), and Sierra Club Maine filed a motion for preliminary injunction to prevent work beginning on the CMP corridor until the court can fully consider a lawsuit challenging the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) for its flawed and inadequate environmental review of the project.
“It is not in the best interests of Maine people for CMP to start work prematurely on what is one of the most consequential and controversial projects in recent history,” the groups said in a statement. “The federal review of this project has been conducted behind closed doors and has failed to properly consider the long-lasting impact the transmission line will have on the woods, waters, wildlife, and recreational economy of Western Maine.”
The announcement that the Corps had issued a permit for the project was made by CMP late in the evening on the day after the general election. Since then, CMP has indicated it would start work on the proposed transmission line as early as December 4, 2020, even though the company has yet to receive a Presidential Permit from the Department of Energy (DOE).
A lack of transparency has plagued the review of the CMP corridor by the federal government. Most recently, a condition that would have required CMP to wait for the DOE Presidential Permit to be issued was dropped from the Corps’ final permit after CMP objected to it, indicating that the Corps was coordinating closely with CMP to expedite construction despite overwhelming opposition from Maine people. On October 16, 2020, Sierra Club Maine filed a separate suit seeking to force the DOE to disclose records the group requested nine months ago under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
The lawsuit filed by AMC, NRCM, and Sierra Club Maine challenges the Corps’ Environmental Assessment (EA) and “Finding of No Significant Impact,” which was completed on July 7, 2020, but not released to the public. The groups were only able to obtain a copy after they submitted a FOIA request seeking documents related to the Corps’ review.
In their legal filing, AMC, NRCM, and Sierra Club Maine said that by choosing not to conduct an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), as required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Corps had abdicated its responsibility to assess the full impacts of the proposed transmission line.
The groups are represented in their lawsuit by Earthrise Law Center, the environmental legal clinic of Lewis & Clark Law School.
About CMP’s proposed transmission line:
The CMP corridor is a proposal to net billions in profit for CMP and Hydro-Quebec by constructing a 145-mile transmission line through Maine that would ship existing hydropower from Quebec to Massachusetts. It would cut 53 miles of new power line through undeveloped parts of Maine’s forests, forever fragmenting the largest contiguous temperate forest in North America and perhaps the world. The destruction would clear trees and plants through wetlands and across streams, impacting important deer wintering habitat and other areas where public agencies and private citizens have spent millions of dollars to protect habitat for Maine’s brook trout.
Throughout the state and federal reviews of the controversial project, CMP has failed to demonstrate that its corridor would benefit the climate by reducing global carbon pollution, a fact emphasized by the Massachusetts Attorney General in a December 2018 filing.
CMP and Hydro-Quebec have spent a record-breaking $20.6 million to defend their project against widespread opposition from Maine people. To date, 25 towns have voted to oppose or rescind their support. Two of the state’s biggest unions as well as the Sportsmen’s Alliance of Maine and Franklin County Commissioners have come out in opposition to the project. And a March 2019 poll found that 65% of Mainers oppose the CMP corridor while 90% of Franklin County residents and 83% of Somerset County residents oppose the project.