June 10, 2020 (Augusta, ME) – Maine’s leading environmental advocacy group, the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM), today filed an appeal of the Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) permit for Central Maine Power’s (CMP) controversial transmission corridor. NRCM called the permit fundamentally flawed and contrary to the interests of Maine people because the massive transmission line would cause long-lasting, irreparable damage to Maine’s environment.
“The CMP corridor would be one of the most destructive projects in Maine history. DEP’s permit for this project ignored the basic requirements of our state’s environmental laws that protect the health of Maine’s forests, waters, and wildlife,” said NRCM Staff Scientist Nick Bennett. “What’s worse, DEP refused to analyze the most important question concerning the project, the validity of CMP’s claims about the corridor’s impact on climate change. Without even considering this question, DEP blindly accepted CMP’s misleading claims and incorrectly stated they justify the massive damage the project would inflict on Western Maine.”
In its legal filing with the Board of Environmental Protection (BEP), NRCM argued that DEP’s decision failed to meet the standards of Maine’s environmental laws. NRCM also said that DEP had no authority to issue CMP’s permit because only the BEP has jurisdiction over permits for projects of statewide significance. (See 38 M.R.S. §§ 341-D(2) and 344(2-A).)
“DEP’s permit for this highly controversial project is clearly invalid, and we believe that BEP should reverse DEP’s decision once it has reviewed the facts in this case,” said NRCM Clean Energy Attorney Sue Ely. “First, the law requires that the BEP, not DEP, issue permits for projects of statewide significance, such as the CMP corridor. Second, it is clear that CMP’s transmission line violates the Natural Resources Protection Act and Site Location of Development Act because of its harmful impacts to Maine’s environment.”
As part of the DEP permitting process, NRCM joined with the Appalachian Mountain Club and Trout Unlimited to present clear and undeniable evidence that the CMP corridor would cause irreparable damage to Maine’s environment and economy by:
- Permanently fragmenting the largest contiguous temperate forest in North America, a globally significant resource;
- Damaging hundreds of high-quality brook trout streams and ponds due to removal of trees that provide the shade and inputs of large wood that brook trout need to thrive;
- Threatening the tourism and guiding industries, which are critical for the Western Maine economy;
- Severely weakening the ecological webs that connect vernal pools and wetlands to each other through amphibian migration;
- Bisecting the last large deer wintering area in the Forks region; and
- Hampering development of Maine’s own renewable energy industry, which would provide far more jobs and environmental benefit than the CMP corridor.
“This project cuts through some of the best and most intact brook trout habitat in Maine. Brook trout are an iconic Maine species, and Maine is the last, best hope for brook trout surviving into the next century in the U.S.,” said Bennett. “From the perspective of brook trout conservation, you could not put a worse project in a worse place.”
CMP’s deeply unpopular proposal is widely opposed by Maine people. According to a 2019 poll, 65% of Mainers oppose the project. Twenty-five towns have already voted to oppose or rescind their support for the project, as have the Androscoggin and Franklin County Commissioners, two of the state’s largest unions, and the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine.
“Instead of destroying Maine’s North Woods so CMP and Hydro-Quebec can make billions in profit, Maine should be investing in local clean energy projects that will actually reduce pollution and deliver long-lasting, good-paying jobs for Mainers,” said Ely.
CMP and Hydro-Quebec have already spent an astounding $9 million on an extensive political campaign to try and defend their flagging power corridor proposal, and Hydro-Quebec has been forced to pay a record ethics fine for campaign finance violations. With five months until the November election, this spending frenzy is on track to be the most money ever spent to defeat a citizen initiative in Maine.