Both chambers of the Legislature approved a joint order opposing the Central Maine Power corridor late Monday after bigger policy efforts failed this session. In the final vote of the night, lawmakers approved a resolution arguing that the transmission project constituted a “substantial alteration” of public lands and should have been subjected to a two-thirds vote in the Legislature.
It was symbolic pushback against the corridor project, which is well underway in western Maine despite popular grassroots opposition and a planned referendum later this year that aims to revoke its permit. The Senate — where major CMP critic Sen. Rick Bennett, R-Oxford, introduced the measure — adopted it in a sweeping 28-6 vote. The House was less enthusiastic with a 66-52 vote.
But it came at the end of a legislative session in which larger legislative efforts targeting CMP failed. Lawmakers upheld Mills’ vetoes on bills that would have halted political spending by the Canadian energy company behind the project and created a public utility to replace CMP and Versant Power. Other efforts to require legislative approval for certain public land leases related to the corridor and tightening evaluations of a project’s effect on lands have been held over to the next session.
The fight is not over for CMP opponents. Proponents of a consumer-owned utility are likely to kick off efforts to take their fight to the ballot box later this summer. Stephanie Clifford, a spokesperson for the Our Power Maine group spearheading the effort, said the group is already signing up volunteers.
That would be in addition to the referendum already set for November that would block the corridor outright, although it still could face legal challenges. Arguments in a lawsuit brought by a state representative over the language of that question are set to be heard tomorrow in Cumberland County Superior Court.