Avangrid and NECEC Take Action to Protect Historic Clean Energy Project
Company files suit challenging constitutionality of Question 1
“We thank our supporters and the 160,000 Mainers who voted in support of the NECEC project,” said
Question 1 proposes to retroactively change
“We have followed the rules every step of the way in a transparent and public process and have received every regulatory approval required for this project to proceed, however, fossil fuel companies have done everything they can, including misleading Mainers, to try and block this clean energy project,” said Dickinson. “This referendum was an act of bad faith by self-interested proponents and was targeted at stopping a single project.”
The lawsuit filed today outlines how Question 1 violates a number of legal principles including vested property rights, separation of powers, and the contracts clauses of the
- Vested Rights - A legal principle embodied in Maine Law, vested rights, protects a property owner who has invested in a project after following the law in place at the time. Under the vested rights principle, if a property owner followed the rules in getting all necessary permits and starts construction of a project, the rules cannot be changed retroactively to block the project. NECEC began construction on the transmission project only after receiving full regulatory approvals. Going back now and retroactively changing the rules to stop the project is a clear violation of the company’s vested rights.
- Separation of Powers - Question 1 also violates the separation of powers principles enshrined in the Maine Constitution by attempting to reverse decisions of both Maine’s executive and judicial branches through a legislative action. This is the same principle the Maine Supreme Judicial Court invoked in 2020 when it threw out the first citizens’ initiative put forward by opponents of the project. A citizens’ initiative is considered an act of the legislative branch under the Maine Constitution.
Contracts Clause - By attempting to cancel a 25-year lease between NECEC and the
State of Maine, the initiative violates the Contracts Clauses of both the Maineand United States Constitutions – provisions intended to protect the sanctity of contracts from intrusion by the government.
“Question 1 violates fundamental legal principles, but you don’t have to be a lawyer to see that it’s also fundamentally unfair,” Dickinson said. “This referendum effectively tears up valid contracts, ignores the judicial and executive branches and goes back in time to retroactively change the rules to stop a project just because it threatens the financial interests of fossil fuel generators.”
Because Question 1 violates vested rights as well as these basic constitutional protections provided by the
NECEC also asks the
Opponents of the NECEC project include fossil fuel energy generation owners NextEra,
Construction began on the NECEC in early 2021 and to date, approximately 124 miles of the transmission corridor have been cleared and over 120 structures have been installed. The project has been reviewed by state and federal regulators and permitting agencies and has received every regulatory approval required at the state and federal levels, including from the
Editor’s Note: The legal filing can be found here.
ABOUT THE NECEC PROJECT
The New England Clean Energy Connect (NECEC) is a
The 145-mile transmission line is being built on land owned or controlled by an affiliate company of the NECEC. The 53 miles of new corridor on working forest land uses a new clearing technique of tapered vegetation; the remaining two-thirds of the project follows existing power lines created for the state’s hydroelectric industry almost a century ago. Construction is scheduled to be completed by the Spring of 2023.
The project will create an average of more than 1,600 good-paying jobs annually during the two-and-a-half-year construction period, provide
The NECEC will also deliver significant economic benefits to
For more information about the New England Clean Energy Connect, please visit our website at www.necleanenergyconnect.org.