Three large conservation groups in Maine are adding the U.S. Department of Energy to their lawsuit challenging what they allege are flawed federal permits granted to Central Maine Power for its controversial transmission line project.

In their legal filing announced Monday, the Appalachian Mountain Club, Natural Resources Council of Maine and Sierra Club Maine said the federal energy department committed an error in issuing a so-called presidential permit for the New England Clean Energy Connect corridor, without first allowing public comment.

The energy department’s review of the project has come under scrutiny because the administration of former President Trump issued a presidential permit just days before President Biden was inaugurated. That action, as well as issuing a finding that the project had no significant environmental impact, violated the National Environmental Policy Act and the Administrative Procedure Act, the groups allege.

Last October, the three groups filed their initial lawsuit in federal court challenging the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for failing to rigorously assess the full impacts of CMP’s transmission line on the woods, waters and communities of western Maine. In their legal filing, the resources council and Sierra Club Maine said that by choosing not to conduct a rigorous environmental review, the Army Corps had abdicated its responsibility to assess the full impacts of the proposed transmission line, including a new 53-mile corridor that would cut through Maine’s western mountains region.

Project supporters, including Clean Energy Matters, have said the lawsuit is just another attempt by opponents to slow or kill a development that would bring renewable power, jobs and other benefits to the region.

The First Circuit Court of Appeals in December issued an injunction barring construction on an undeveloped segment of the corridor while the court considers an appeal filed by the three groups in response to a lower court’s decision to deny their motion for a preliminary injunction.

Oral arguments for that case are scheduled for Tuesday.

U.S. Rep. Jared Golden and the Penobscot Nation have called on the Biden administration to rescind the presidential permit and the finding of no significant environmental impact, and to conduct a more extensive environmental review of the  corridor.

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