By DAVID SHARP Associated Press
PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — A federal judge declined to intervene to stop construction of a 145-mile (230-kilometer) electricity transmission corridor aimed at bringing Canadian hydropower to the New England grid.
Three conservation groups sought the preliminary injunction to allow them time to argue for a more rigorous environmental review by the Army Corps of Engineers.
The lawsuit in federal court will proceed but so will construction under U.S. District Judge Lance Walker’s decision on Wednesday. The parent company of Central Maine Power plans to begin site preparation work in January.
The $1 billion New England Clean Energy Connect would provide a conduit for up to 1,200 megawatts of Canadian hydropower, reducing greenhouse emissions and stabilizing energy costs in the region, supporters say. Critics, however, say the benefits are overstated, and that the project would destroy unspoiled wilderness.
The Sierra Club, Natural Resources Council of Maine and Appalachian Mountain Club sued to force the Army Corps to conduct a more rigorous environmental impact statement instead of the less-stringent environmental assessment.
The Army Corps gave its approval in November. The project previously received approval from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, Maine Land Use Planning Commission and Maine Public Utilities Commission.
That leaves a “presidential permit” issued by the U.S. Department of Energy for the cross-border connection as the only hurdle.
The project, which would be fully funded by Massachusetts ratepayers to meet the state’s clean energy goals, calls for construction of a high-voltage power line from Mount Beattie Township on the Canadian border to the regional power grid in Lewiston, Maine.
Much of the project calls for widening existing corridors, but a new swath would be cut through 53 miles (85 kilometers) of wilderness.
It would cross the Appalachian Trail and several hundred wetlands and streams, according to the Natural Resources Council of Maine.