Several opponents filed paperwork this week for a new referendum against the controversial Central Maine Power proposal. Earlier this year, the groups gathered enough signatures on a ballot measure requiring the Maine Public Utilities Commission to reverse its approval of the project, but the state Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional.
Former Republican state Sen. Tom Saviello of Wilton says the potential new referendum would take a different approach by requiring a two-thirds legislative vote in order to approve any high-impact transmission line.
“Not only will the people decide whether they want this law in place, they're also going to have the people who they hire and fire, vote, on this law, vote on whether this line can go through or not,” Saviello says.
The initiative would also prohibit high-impact transmission lines from being built in the Upper Kennebec region near Jackman, and would require the legislature's two-thirds approval if public lands will be used for such projects.
Jon Breed is the executive director of Clean Energy Matters, a PAC formed by CMP's parent company to support the power line project. He says the group is still reviewing the referendum, but says the measure would politicize the permitting process and could create additional barriers for similar future projects in the state.
“I think regardless of what people think about the Clean Energy Corridor,” Breed says, “I think we would all agree that we can't afford to politicize the critical economic and environmental investments our state needs right now.”
Petitioners argue the ballot measure would give Maine voters a say in the permitting process, and they hope to have the initiative on the ballot by next year.