Maine’s highest court is considering the future of a citizens’ campaign to block a much-debated hydropower project.
AUGUSTA, Maine (WABI) - Maine’s highest court is considering the future of a citizens’ campaign to block a much-debated hydropower project.
The state supreme court heard arguments Wednesday centered on the New England Clean Energy Connect, proposed by Central Maine Power.
It calls for construction of a 145-mile high-voltage power transmission line from the Canadian border to the regional power grid in Lewiston.
The Maine Public Utilities Commission granted the project a key certificate to move forward, but petitioners gathered enough signatures to put the approval up for a statewide vote.
CMP’s parent company, Avangrid Networks, sued the state, claiming the citizens’ initiative was unconstitutional and the vote should be barred.
The question before the court is can the public intervene in a legislative action.
However, the point was raised that Avangrid should have made a complaint before the petition was approved for the ballot.
“This citizen initiated resolve is unique in history of referendum and resolve process in Maine, in that as has been noted, it directs an executive branch agency to reverse a final decision issued in a particular case on a particular day after an extensive hearing and after the decision had been upheld by this court on appeal. The Secretary of State’s is here today, in the also very unusual position, of agreeing with the challengers that the subject matter of this resolve is indeed beyond the citizen’s power to legislate under section 18,” says Phyllis Gardner, legal council for Maine Secretary of State.
Even if this initiative is deemed unconstitutional, lawyers for the Secretary of State's Office say it could still legally be placed on the ballot and voted on, yet no action could be taken.
That's why they are urging the court to deliver a decision before ballots are printed for November's election.
That deadline is August 28th.
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