MPUC grants CMP certificate for transmission line

Apr 11, 2019
Courtesy of: Press Herald

Hallowell — Despite strong opposition from environmental groups and a number of municipalities, the Maine Public Utilities Commission Thursday announced it voted unanimously to approve Central Maine Power Co.’s Petition for a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity for the New England Clean Energy Connect (NECEC) Project's proposed transmission line through Maine.

While AVANGRID, CMP's parent company, lauded this initial step in the approval process, Sue Ely, a staff attorney at the Natural Resources Council of Maine, issued a statement calling the decision "deeply flawed" and warned that the transmission line will do much more harm than good.

In MPUC's press release today, Commission Chairman Mark Vannoy said, “This project has significant benefits for the people of Maine. The CPCN application meets all the statutory requirements and is in the public interest. In addition to important enhancements to Maine’s electric system reliability, 1,200 MW of hydroelectric generation injected into the New England region should help to partially mitigate ongoing fuel security concerns in Maine and the region.”

Commissioner Bruce Williamson said in the release, “The economic benefits to Maine are very real and substantial, including energy market and capacity market effects. This reduces electricity costs to Maine energy users and has benefits for plans to electrify other sectors of the economy.”

Commissioner Randall Davis added, “As Maine’s appetite for variable generation from solar and wind surges, NECEC’s hydro is the perfect complement with (24/7) base load capability.”

In addition, the commissioners noted in the press release that provisions of the NECEC Stipulation augment benefits that will be realized by Maine through funding mechanisms and programs to provide rate relief to Maine ratepayers, benefits for Maine’s low-income customers, and support for a variety of other programs that benefit Maine communities and the environment.

According to a press release issued by NRCM, the Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity is but one step in a multi-agency (and multi-state) permitting and review process that will determine the ultimate fate of the proposed corridor. The Maine Department of Environmental Protection and Land Use Planning Commission are currently reviewing the project and a final decision is not expected until fall 2019. CMP also has to receive several local and federal permits, and the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities must also sign off on the project.

During today’s MPUC deliberations, the commissioners acknowledged that the project came with some challenges for Maine, according to the MPUC press release. The project may impact scenic and recreational values, as well as tourism in communities in proximity to the project.

"However, when these issues are balanced against the ratepayer, economic, and environmental benefits of the NECEC, the commission determined that the adverse effects are outweighed by the significant benefits," according to the release.

Ely of NCRM countered that the MPUC decision "understates the damage this project would cause to Maine’s North Woods, the negative impact it would have on local clean energy projects, and the failure by CMP to demonstrate that the project would provide actual net benefits for our climate.

"At every juncture, Mainers have voiced their overwhelming opposition to this project, and we are confident that they will continue to do so during the multiple permitting processes that still lie ahead for the project,” she said.

Background: On Sept. 27, 2017, Central Maine Power Co. filed for a CPCN for the NECEC, a 145-mile, 1,200 MW transmission project from the Québec-Maine Border to Lewiston.

 

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