Maine election officials invalidated hundreds more signatures that were collected to force a referendum on a $1 billion hydropower transmission corridor, but there were still enough valid signatures to surpass the threshold for a statewide vote in November.

The court-ordered review led to a final count of 16,332 signatures being invalidated for various reasons, but there were enough valid signatures to clear the hurdle by 3,050 votes, Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap concluded. The threshold was about 63,000 signatures.

The review corroborated a lawsuit’s claims that some notaries hired by opponents of the project violated state law by engaging in other campaign activities, and that some of the signatures were forged.

Superior Court Justice Michaela Murphy ordered the secretary of state to complete its review before ruling on the lawsuit.

A spokeswoman for Dunlap declined to comment Thursday, saying the office can’t comment on pending litigation.

Central Maine Power’s proposed New England Clean Energy Connect would serve as a conduit for up to 1,200 megawatts of Canadian hydropower to reach the regional power grid.


CMP contends the project, funded by Massachusetts ratepayers, would benefit Maine and the region by lowering carbon emissions, reducing fossil fuel usage and stabilizing electricity costs. But opponents say the project would create environmental damage and hurt homegrown solar, wind and biomass projects in Maine.

Under the proposal, most of the transmission line would follow an established utility corridor, but a new path would be cut through 53 miles of wilderness that the power company owns in western Maine.

Referendum supporters said they were pleased that Dunlap certified the necessary signatures to force a statewide vote. Spokeswoman Sandi Howard accused CMP of using an “army of lawyers, private investigators and consultants to silence Mainers’ voices.”

Jon Breed, executive director of Clean Energy Matters, which is promoting the project, said he believes Dunlap should have gone further by invalidating more signatures under a 2018 law intended to eliminate conflicts of interest and restore faith in the citizen’s initiative process.

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