The department says it cannot begin evaluating the $1 billion proposal until the company provides all of the mandatory information.
by Doug Harlow
Morning Sentinel news story
Central Maine Power Co.’s plan to build a $1 billion, 145-mile transmission line through western Maine is facing another potential delay after the Maine Department of Environmental Protection notified the company this week that its application to build the project is incomplete.
The DEP said it cannot move forward with evaluating CMP’s New England Clean Energy Connect proposal until the company provides the mandatory information.
The DEP letter is the second time in as many weeks that a Maine agency evaluating CMP’s proposed transmission line found that CMP failed to provide the information required to evaluate the project. Last week, the Maine Public Utilities Commission delayed its decision on CMP’s project at least three months – until March 2019 – because CMP failed to provide information in a timely manner.
“CMP’s attempt to ram this flawed project through the state permitting process is backfiring as officials uncover missing information about the project’s real impacts on Maine,” Natural Resources Council of Maine staff attorney Sue Ely said in a post on the NRCM website. “The only way for Maine regulators to evaluate this project is for CMP to provide all of the required information to decision makers, something that CMP has so far failed to do. We are encouraged that the DEP is doing such a thorough review of CMP’s application.”
CMP spokeswoman Catharine Hartnett said the DEP’s request is a routine one within the regulatory process. She said the company has until Nov. 19 to respond to the state agency with a schedule the company expects to use to submit the requested information.
Hartnett said the DEP is asking for additional information in four areas:
- Evaluation of what effect an invasive plant has on the functions and values of the parcel of land where the transmission corridor is proposed to go, and development of a plan to deal with the plants.
- Information addressing potential effects on recreational users of scenic resource areas, such as the Kennebec River below Wyman Dam, the Androscoggin River near the Androscoggin Riverlands State Park, or any of the great ponds.
- A request for leaf-off and snow photo simulations, or a Photoshop presentation showing what the areas would look like during the winter. There is insufficient information to complete the review of the project’s effects on scenery, the DEP notes in the letter, dated Nov. 5.
- Response to some concerns from the Maine Historic Preservation Commission on areas of cultural and archaeological significance.
Hartnett said the company’s response to the letter is that they have until Nov. 19 to provide a date on which they anticipate being able to provide more information.
“This is all a very standard regulatory process,” she said. “That’s what we’re engaged in and that’s what we will do.”
However, Sandra Howard, a Maine guide in Caratunk and a member of the group Say NO to NECEC, said Thursday that CMP is not providing all of the information being requested of it and noted that the DEP is holding it accountable.
“We are delighted to see the DEP respond in this manner,” Howard said in a statement. “We continue to be concerned about CMP’s ability to support its claims about the project with their insufficient data. We have significant concern about this project’s impact on Maine’s environment, wildlife habitat, water quality, impact on global CO2 emissions, and true environmental impact of its source in Quebec.
“We encourage all of the approval agencies to be scrupulous in their determination of the credibility of CMP’s site application.”
The project, which CMP believes it can finish by the end of 2022, needs state-level approvals, along with federal government and Massachusetts regulatory approval for a 20-year deal to buy power from Quebec.
Most of the corridor would be 300 feet wide, but it would expand to around 500 feet wide in places south of Wyman Dam, all with 95- to 100-foot transmission towers. The line would run from the Canadian border near Route 27 then south of Jackman to Johnson Mountain Township, skirting West Forks to Moxie Gore and The Forks, where the new line would join the existing line from Harris Station at the head of the Kennebec River.
The line also would run near Caratunk and Moscow to the Wyman Lake hydroelectric station, crossing the Kennebec River south of Bingham into Concord Township. From there the line would run through Embden and Anson and into Starks, Industry and New Sharon to Farmington and on south to Lewiston.
The Natural Resources Council of Maine and the Appalachian Mountain Club have objected to the project because of the potential effect on the landscape and what they said was an exaggeration of environmental benefits cited by CMP.
“We still do not know where this power will actually come from and what the real impact on the climate and Maine electricity rates will be,” said Ely in her post on the NRCM website. “We are still concerned that this transmission line will cause significant harm to Maine’s environment while failing to reduce harmful climate pollution at all. Maine people deserve decisions based on facts.”