A truck navigates a cleared section of the NECEC corridor in Johnson Mountain Township last November. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

More delay in building the Central Maine Power-backed electricity transmission corridor through western Maine could affect the project’s viability, a lawyer said Wednesday in asking a judge to let the work continue.

John Aromando, representing the New England Clean Energy Connect project, was seeking an injunction to block enforcement of the voter referendum halting work. “It reaches a tipping point” where the $1.4 billion project no longer makes economic sense, Aromando told Business and Consumer Court Judge Michael A. Duddy.

Duddy didn’t rule immediately, saying that lawyers had brought up some arguments that he hadn’t anticipated. But he also said, “I don’t think it will take me all that long” to decide.

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruled in August that the 2021 voter-approved initiative to ban construction of the power line is unconstitutional if NECEC can convince the courts it has done enough work on the project to have earned “vested rights” in continuing. That will be debated in Duddy’s courtroom in April.

But lawyers for the corridor told Duddy on Wednesday that they want him to reconsider his decision last December to turn down their request for an injunction. If granted, it would have barred enforcement of the new law – and allowed construction to continue while the court skirmishing grinds on.

Aromando said that Massachusetts utilities and ratepayers, who are paying for the transmission line, will lose patience and may pull the plug on the work. The line would bring electricity from Canada to a substation in Lewiston, where it will connect to the New England power grid and go to Massachusetts customers.


“At what point does Massachusetts say, ‘We can’t wait another year’ and walk away from the project?” Aromando asked Duddy.

The project is supposed to be completed by August 2024, but NECEC, a subsidiary of CMP parent Avangrid, can extend that deadline by a year if it posts $10.9 million in additional security. Aromando said waiting for a decision on whether NECEC has vested rights – a ruling that might not be made until next summer and will likely be appealed to the state’s top court – does no good because it would likely push a final court decision well into 2024.


“(The project) is going to receive a death blow if we delay it that long,” he told Duddy.

A lawyer for Cianbro Cos., one of the chief contractors on the transmission line, told the judge that the halt in the work has run up the project’s costs.

He said that a further delay means it will take more time and money to gather supplies, equipment and workers for the project.


“This cannot be turned off and on like a light switch,” Phil Coffin said. “At some point, this project, if delayed further, may not longer be economically viable.”

But an assistant attorney general told the judge that Mainers have already shown, in their 60% vote against NECEC, that the court shouldn’t grant an injunction that will allow work on the corridor to resume.

“The law was enacted by the voters, who thereby indicated what the public interest was,” Jon Bolton said. An injunction that allows work to resume, despite voters’ support for a ban on the project, weakens public trust in the referendum process, he said.

Although the Law Court sent the case back to Duddy’s Business and Consumer Court for a decision on the vested interest claim, Bolton said, the high court didn’t rule on other aspects of the case, which include a challenge to a lease of a small, but crucial, tract of public land.

Bolton said there’s a risk that the whole project may be derailed by subsequent court rulings, so it doesn’t make sense for the court to allow work to resume when its future is so uncertain.

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