DEP releases draft order permitting NECEC project
AUGUSTA – The Maine Department of Environmental Protection released a draft order today permitting the New England Clean Energy Connect Project proposed by Central Maine Power.The draft order includes requirements limiting the proposed transmission corridor to 54 feet at its widest point in Segment 1 – the roughly 53-mile section proposed to run from the Canadian border down to The Forks – rather than the previously proposed 150 feet. In a statement announcing the issuance of the draft permit, DEP said that the project as originally proposed would have had “significant impacts,” particularly in that section.“The record information also shows that it is feasible to avoid and minimize those impacts through a variety of mitigation measures,” the DEP statement said. “The draft order does so, imposing a set of conditions identified and developed through the public process. Several of these conditions have never before been required for construction and maintenance of transmission lines in the State of Maine.”In addition to the limit to corridor width, the order requires the preservation of approximately 14 miles of canopy preservation, the conservation of more than 700 acres of deer wintering area and deer traveling corridors across the transmission corridor and prohibits the use of herbicides throughout Segment 1.Other requirements would include requiring CMP conserve 40,000 acres in western Maine, $1.87 million for culvert replacement projects aimed at enhancing fish habitats and improving water quality.The Maine Department of Environmental Protection today released a draft order that requires an unprecedented level of environmental and natural resource protection,” the DEP wrote in its statement.Three conservation groups that have indicated their opposition to the project criticized the decision in a joint statement, saying that the transmission corridor “continues to carve an unacceptable path through a globally significant forested landscape and provides no verifiable reduction in greenhouse gas pollution. While we appreciate the Department’s attempt to reduce impacts, this remains the wrong project in the wrong place.”DEP is accepting written public comment on the draft order from March 13 to March 27. Written comments must be submitted by close of business on Friday, March 27. Before making a final decision, DEP will review and consider all written comments. To submit written comments on this draft order, please contact: Jim Beyer, Maine DEP, State House Station #17, Augusta, ME 04333. Email address is [email protected] Detailed information, including a copy of the draft order, can be found on Maine DEP’s website.The NECEC project has already gotten approval from the Land Use Planning Commission, following the LUPC vote in January. Planners are currently seeking permitting through federal agencies, including the Army Corps of Engineers and a presidential permit issued by the U.S. Department of Energy. There are also local permitting processes in organized municipalities along the corridor’s proposed route.