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Maine OKs $1 billion hydropower transmission line

ORONO, Maine (AP) — The state agency that handles zoning in Maine’s unregulated territories gave its approval Wednesday to a proposed $1 billion transmission line aimed at bringing Canadian hydropower to the New England power grid.

The Land Use Planning Commission determined that the project, dubbed the New England Clean Energy Connect, met zoning and land use standards. But the project faces additional regulatory hurdles.

Central Maine Power’s project would allow up to 1,200 megawatts of Canadian hydropower to reach the regional power grid to meet Massachusetts’ green energy goals.

Under the proposal, most of the 145-mile transmission line would follow established utility corridors, but a new swath would be cut through 53 miles of wilderness that CMP owns.

An attorney for the Natural Resources Council of Maine, which opposes the project, said the project would create “enormous harm” on recreation, scenery and resources.

“The evidence and testimony presented before LUPC made clear that this project would be a bad deal for Maine and cause irreparable damage to the largest contiguous temperate forest in North America,” attorney Sue Ely said.

Supporters say there will be benefits for all of New England by suppressing electricity rates and reducing carbon emissions by the equivalent of more than 700,000 vehicles.

The Land Use Planning Commission tabled a previous discussion after a debate over whether a remote pond would be harmed. Central Maine Power later amended its proposal to avoid the pond at a cost of about $1 million.

The Maine Public Utilities Commission approved the project last year. But the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and Army Corps of Engineers also have to weigh in.