Regulators in Maine have approved a 145-mile, US$950-million transmission line that will carry 1,200 MW of electricity from Quebec to New England.
The decision last week by the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) comes with a requirement for “extensive land conservation and habitat protection plans” to mitigate impacts along the route, Utility Dive reports. With construction set to begin this spring and Massachusetts ratepayers picking up the tab, developers say Central Maine Power’s New England Clean Energy Connect (NECEC) project could be in operation by December 2022.
While the line ran into local opposition, the Boston-based Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) called it “critical” to meeting New England’s climate change goals. “Building new ways to deliver low-carbon energy to our region is a critical piece of tackling the climate crisis,” said Senior Attorney Phelps Turner. At the same time, “DEP was absolutely right to impose significant environmental conditions on this project and ensure that it does not harm critical wildlife areas.”
Those conditions “include limits on transmission corridor width, forest preservation, culvert replacement, and vegetation management projects,” Utility Dive says. “Collectively, the requirements of the permit require an unprecedented level of environmental protection and compensatory land conservation for the construction of a transmission line in the state of Maine,” the DEP said May 11.
“In our original proposal we worked hard to develop a project that provided robust mitigation measures to protect the environment, added NECEC Transmission CEO Thorn Dickinson. “And through this permitting process, we now have made an exceedingly good project even better for Maine.”
Massachusetts estimated the project would cut monthly electricity bills by 2.0 to 4.0%, delivering $4 billion in direct and indirect benefits to ratepayers over a 20-year contract. Once the new line is complete, CLF’s Turner said it will enable New England “to retire dirty fossil fuel plants in the coming years, which is a win for our health and our climate.”