Citing what he called a lack of transparency and opportunity for public input, U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, D-Maine, asked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Tuesday to hold a public hearing on Central Maine Power Co.’s planned transmission line.

Golden’s request comes as CMP attempts to get to the finish line on its $1 billion New England Clean Energy Connect project, intended to transmit Quebec hydropower to Massachusetts along a 145-mile line through western Maine to a substation in Lewiston where it will connect to the existing grid.

The project has received a key approval from the Maine Public Utilities Commission, which found the project is needed. Now it’s trying to pick its way through a series of environmental concerns before the Maine Land Use Planning Commission and the Department of Environmental Protection. It also needs the go-ahead from federal agencies, including the Army Corps.

Meanwhile, a variety of interest groups, including environmental activists, competing power producers and several communities along the route, have been working to scuttle or modify the project.

Golden’s letter to Col. William Conde cites anticipated impacts on forest and wetlands and concerns voiced by residents in the 2nd Congressional District, which he represents. The congressman has not yet taken a position on the controversial project.

“It is critical,” Golden wrote, “that Mainers are able to provide input and voice their opinions about the permitting for a project that will have significant environmental and economic consequences for their communities.”


Golden noted that the federal Department of Energy held public hearings on similar, now-defunct projects in New Hampshire and Vermont. As the lead federal agency for the CMP project, Golden said, the Army Corps should do the same.

A spokesman for CMP noted that there were six days of public hearings held last spring by the Maine Land Use Planning Commission, the Department of Environmental Protection and the Army Corps, at which interested parties and the public were able to comment and share their views.

“We believe public discourse is critical to the process and that it is important that all points of view be heard and discussed,” said Ted Varipatis in a statement, although he would not say whether CMP supports or opposes holding the hearings. “We look forward to continuing conversations about this project and its benefits as we work through the established permitting process.”

It’s not unusual for the Army Corps to hold public hearings for large projects. Meetings this fall include plans to replace the highway bridges over the Cape Cod Canal.

Golden’s request was supported by the Natural Resources Council of Maine, one of the opposition groups.

“The proposed CMP corridor is a massive project that has generated enormous public interest. It deserves a public hearing, and we are thankful that Congressman Golden has requested one,” said Sue Ely, the group’s clean energy attorney.

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