PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Maine’s environmental commissioner suspended a permit Tuesday for a $1 billion electricity transmission line, delivering another blow to the project aimed at bringing Canadian hydropower to New England.
Her decision comes after Maine residents rebuked the project in a referendum and the developers suspended constructions under pressure from the governor.
But the suspension would be lifted if project developers win a preliminary injunction in their legal battle, the commissioner said.
Opponents called on Commissioner Melanie Loyzim to uphold the people’s will after the referendum vote.
The latest development follows years of debate over New England Clean Energy Connect, a project aimed at serving as a conduit for up to 1,200 megawatts of hydropower to reach the regional power grid.
The project has pitted environmentalists, politicians and residents against each other in a debate over the region’s renewable energy.
Proponents say big renewable energy projects are necessary to slow climate change. Critics said the environmental benefits were overstated. They prefer to have smaller renewable projects closer to home.
The 145-mile (233-kilometer) transmission line would mostly follow existing utility corridors. But a new section needed to be cut through 53 miles (85 kilometers) of woods to reach the Canadian border.
The Maine Department of Environmental Protection had concerns about the permit based on both the referendum vote and a judge’s ruling that nullified a 1-mile leased portion over state land.
Developers have said that it’s possible to reroute the project to avoid the 1-mile portion.
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