By Nancy West, InDepthNH.org
Maine regulators have suspended upcoming hearings on Central Maine Power’s transmission line proposal that was selected to bring Hydro-Quebec electricity to Massachusetts after Northern Pass was turned down in New Hampshire.
The Maine Public Utilities Commission was scheduled to hold hearings Oct. 30, 31, and Nov. 1. They were cancelled to give intervenors more time to read thousands of new pages of documents that CMP recently submitted, according to a Maine PUC order issued Friday.
The hearing suspensions will likely cause further delays in the regulatory process, the order states, and a scheduling conference will be held Oct. 31.
“The suspension of these hearings at this point in this process will ultimately result in a more orderly and efficient proceeding,” hearing examiners Chris Simpson and Mitchell Tannenbaum wrote in the order.
John Carroll, spokesman for the Maine project, said he doesn’t expect a long delay, but will find out more at the scheduling conference.
“We don’t think it will be a significant delay,” Carroll said.
Eversource’s Northern Pass proposal included a $1.6 billion, 192-mile high-voltage power line from Pittsburg to Deerfield. Northern Pass had been selected for the Bay State’s clean energy contract, but after New Hampshire regulators denied its certificate to build, Massachusetts turned to CMP’s New England Clean Power Connect project.
Northern Pass has appealed the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee’s decision to the state Supreme Court.
Jack Savage of the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests said the organization had no comment on the Maine project.
“I do think we’re in a new era for major energy infrastructure projects. It’s an era in which transparency will be required and public opinion—as well as true public benefit—matters,” Savage said.
Eversource didn’t immediate return a request for comment.
The Maine project had been under review when Northern Pass was denied, but once it became Massachusetts’ top choice, opposition has become more vocal.
The Maine project was developed by CMP’s parent company Avangrid, which had wanted to obtain all state permits by year’s end.
The Maine ruling came as a result of a motion to suspend the hearings filed by NextEra Energy Resources, LLC, which was backed by other intervenors. It asked that hearings be scheduled at least two weeks after the production of all documents responsive to their discovery requests.
CMP argued unsuccessfully that it has been diligently producing documents on a rolling basis, that parties will have most of the documents a week before CMP’s witnesses are scheduled to be cross-examined, and that the parties will not be prejudiced by moving forward with hearings, the order stated.