AUGUSTA, Maine —
The Maine Department of Environmental Protection has initiated the process to suspend the order allowing construction of the New England Clean Energy Connect power corridor.
The decision comes after a superior court judge ruled earlier this week that Maine's Bureau of Public Lands did not have the authority to grant a lease for land needed for the project.
The ruling, handed down by Justice Michaela Murphy on Tuesday, will force developers of the long-debated New England Clean Energy Corridor to renegotiate a lease deal with the state and get legislative approval for the project.
NECEC first leased the land, nestled between West Forks and Johnson Mountain, under the LePage administration in 2014. The lease was extended by Gov. Janet Mills last year.
Any future lease would require a two-thirds majority vote from the legislature.
Maine DEP Commissioner Melanie Loyzim sent a letter to NECEC Transmission LLC and Central Maine Power regarding the possible suspension of the DEP’s approval of the project.
“I have determined that the Court’s decision represents a change in circumstance that may warrant a suspension of the NECEC Order and I, therefore, am initiating this proceeding under the above-cited sections of the law and rule,” Loyzim wrote.
Loyzim said that while the lease only covered less than a mile of the 145-mile project, it represents a portion of land critical to the completion of the project.
NECEC Transmission CEO and President Thorn Dickinson said Wednesday that the company is reviewing the court’s decision and its next steps.
The controversial project also faces a statewide referendum vote in November.