Central Maine Power is trying to build a power line to bring hydroelectric power from Canada into New England and some people are not happy about it.  Recently, these opponents submitted enough petition signatures to the Secretary of State to likely trigger a public referendum on the project this November.  The referendum would direct the Maine Public Utilities Commission to, contrary to their findings, reverse their decision and rule against the project.

Regardless of how you feel about the project, everyone should be concerned with the precedent that would be set if this citizen initiative process is successful.

In today’s world, all projects, from a transmission line to a new addition on your house require a permit.

For this new transmission line to get a PUC permit, it had to meet hundreds of standards proving it was in the public interest.

The PUC held weeks of public hearings, with multiple intervenors in support and in opposition to the project. They commissioned independent analyses. They took 18 months to determine if the burden of proof had been met. They concluded it had.

The PUC is led by three full time commissioners nominated by the governor and confirmed by the Senate. The PUC is known as a highly competent and politically neutral organization.

In this case, after a lengthy and public process, the PUC ruled that CMP’s project met the requirements in Maine law to earn their permit and the Public Advocate agreed.

The same process applies if you want to build an addition to your house.  There are local standards you must meet.  If your neighbor objects because they don’t want to look at it, they can participate at the Planning Board and/or appeal the decision.  Everyone may not be happy with the outcome, but they have an opportunity to present their case, based on a set of rules adopted by publicly elected representatives.

Note that regarding the NECEC project, the referendum backers do not say the public was not heard, because they were.  The referendum backers do not say arguments were not considered, because they were. These opponents to the project are not seeking intervention by the courts because they know the PUC did nothing wrong.

The opponents simply want the PUC to ignore all their evidence and hard work and say something that is untrue. It’s as if the PUC correctly ruled the sky was blue, but by a referendum vote the opponents want them to say it is green.

Imagine this is your project – an addition to your house – and you followed all the rules. You needed the extra space for your growing family and the Planning Board concluded your application met the ordinance requirements, so they gave you a permit. But suddenly your neighbors ganged up on the Planning Board and commanded them to rescind the permit because they think it looks bad.

Is this a world you want to live in?  Should any project, especially one built on private property with no public money, be shut down because the loudest voices prevailed over the rule of law?

No!  Regardless of how you feel about this project, this win-at-any cost approach is dangerous and a terrible precedent!

 


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