Avangrid Inc., the parent company of Central Maine Power and NECEC Transmission LLC, indicated Wednesday that it would press ahead with building the New England Clean Energy Connect power line project, despite Tuesday’s overwhelming rejection by Maine voters.

“While the outcome of this election is disappointing,” the company said in a statement, “it is not the end of the road and we will continue to advocate for this historic and important clean energy project.  We have followed the rules every step of the way in a transparent and public process and have received every regulatory approval required for this project to proceed.”

Mainers voted decisively Tuesday to kill a $1 billion transmission line project in the western part of the state, in an action that was fueled in part by distaste for the state’s largest utility and concerns about environmental impacts to the North Woods.

With 530 of 571 precincts reporting late Wednesday morning, 59 percent of voters had said “yes” to Question 1, a strong repudiation of CMP, Avangrid and Canadian energy supplier Hydro-Quebec, as well as plans to finish the New England Clean Energy Connect project and put it into service.

The “yes” vote registered a strong showing in nearly every part of the state including Lewiston, which has already received $1.55 million in property taxes tied to the valuation of a multi-million converter station.

Question 1 read: “Do you want to ban the construction of high-impact electric transmission lines in the Upper Kennebec Region and to require the Legislature to approve all other such projects anywhere in Maine, both retroactively to 2020, and to require the Legislature, retroactively to 2014, to approve by a two-thirds vote such projects using public land?”

Tom Saviello, an organizer of the Yes campaign, said the vote gives Maine people a voice in the development of the NECEC corridor and other transmission projects.

“They proved Mainers cannot be hoodwinked or bought off by CMP and Hydro Quebec,” Saviello said. “I call on CMP to stop all construction, as the people of Maine have spoken.”

Meanwhile, a leading environmental group called for the Maine Department of Environmental Protection to immediately suspend NECEC’s construction permit, in light of the vote.

“We don’t believe the DEP can just ignore what the people of Maine enacted and let CMP cause more harm to the corridor,” said Pete Didisheim, advocacy director at the Natural Resources Council of Maine.

The NRCM also is involved in a case at the DEP in which the commissioner is reviewing the permit based on an improper lease across one mile of public lands.

A DEP spokesman wasn’t available for comment Wednesday morning.

In Canada, officials in Quebec were taking stock Wednesday of the Maine vote.

In a tweet just before midnight Tuesday, Quebec’s minister of Energy and Natural Resources, Jonatan Julien, said “we will take note of the results of the referendum in Maine & Hydro-Quebec will analyze them.” He also referred to a separate plan for Hydro-Quebec to send power to New York City via the Hudson River, saying the province would continue to work to make Quebec a leader in cutting carbon emissions in the American Northeast.

To connect to the New England grid, Hydro-Quebec needs to build the 62-mile Appalaches-Maine Interconnection, roughly from Thetford Mines to the Maine border. The project won Canadian  permit approvals in May, over the objections of First Nation indigenous tribes.

Despite that, construction has begun, according to Lynn St-Laurent, Hydro-Quebec’s public affairs spokesperson.

“We are now doing the ground work, essentially access roads and tree clearing,” she told the Press Herald on Wednesday.

In a follow-up statement, St-Laurent called the project a “regional collaborative effort towards the climate challenge” and part of the provincial utility’s long-term vision.

Hydro-Quebec will take the necessary actions to have its rights recognized and ensure the continued construction of the NECEC project,” she said, “which will make a significant contribution to the fight against climate change.”

Hydro-Quebec was a major contributor to NECEC’s campaign to oppose Question 1, spending more than $18 million.

NECEC is a high-voltage, direct-current transmission line with a capacity of 1,200 megawatts, enough energy to run roughly 1 million homes. It would carry energy from Quebec to an alternate-current converter station in Lewiston, where it would enter the New England electric grid. It’s being built largely for the benefit of Massachusetts electric customers, who will pay the $1 billion cost.

The 145-mile route is on land owned or controlled by CMP, except for a one-mile patch through Maine public lands near The Forks. Two-thirds of the route follows existing CMP power line corridors, some of which are being widened up to 75 feet to accommodate another set of poles.

A 53-mile stretch between The Forks and the Quebec border bisects undeveloped commercial forest. The area has been logged for generations but has high-value qualities for wildlife, recreation and biodiversity. Permits require the power corridor in this section to be no more than 54 feet wide. Fewer than 1,000 acres are being cleared in total for the project.

This story will be updated.


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