Hydro-Québec and its American partner won their case in the Maine Supreme Court, which recognized that the referendum rejecting the joint venture with Massachusetts was unconstitutional. But the road to this lucrative contract is still blocked by other legal pitfalls.
Updated yesterday at 5:59pm.
The court remanded the case to a lower court to determine whether the permits and permits obtained by Avangrid, Hydro-Québec’s US partner, were obtained in accordance with laws and regulations and whether the company acted in good faith in doing so . Further delays are to be expected, which could jeopardize the Hydro-Québec Treaty.
Construction on the 140-mile (233-kilometer) line, which will connect Quebec with the state of Massachusetts via Maine, was well advanced when opponents from the state of Maine were given the go-ahead to hold a referendum on the project.
Opponents rejected the interconnection project by 59%, deciding that this ban should apply retrospectively to the start of work during the November 2, 2021 people’s hearing.
It is this retroactivity that the Supreme Court has just ruled illegal. However, the referral of the case to the state Supreme Court will cause additional delays that could be fatal to the Hydro-Québec Treaty.
However, it is still too early to make any progress on the issue, said Hydro-Quebec spokeswoman Lynn Saint-Laurent.
What we can say is that the Maine Supreme Court decision is positive going forward, but we are still in the midst of a court case. Take the time to analyze the decision.
Lynn Saint-Laurent, spokeswoman for Hydro-Québec
In addition to court referral, Hydro-Quebec and its partner are awaiting another decision from the Maine Supreme Court regarding a disputed lease of a 1.4-kilometer portion of the track on public land.
“Hydro-Québec and its American partner NECEC Transmission LLC are currently reviewing the court decisions to determine the follow-up action as well as the potential impact on the transmission line construction schedule,” the two companies officially announced.
Massachusetts expects to receive its first electricity shipments from Quebec in 2024. There is “some wiggle room” on that side, Hydro-Québec said.
Opponents of the project, for their part, hope the additional delays will discourage Massachusetts from looking at options other than those offered by Hydro-Québec. One of them, Tom Saviello, told local media that the fight against the linkage project was a “marathon”, with the final stages being the most difficult.
Hydro-Quebec and Avangrid are facing opposition from several environmentalists, but also a united front from power producers in the region, including Calpine, who fear losing ground to renewable energy.
Avangrid, the parent company of Central Maine Power, the state’s largest electric utility, says it has already spent $450 million to build the transmission line, which is estimated to cost $1.2 billion in total. Logging work was carried out and pylons erected on parts of the line before being stopped due to the referendum.
In Quebec, work on the Quebec portion of the transmission line to the 103-kilometer-long Maine border, estimated at $600 million, has been suspended due to the US blockade.
The commissioning of the transmission line has been postponed several times. Hydro-Quebec has pledged to deliver 9.45 terawatt-hours of electricity to Massachusetts over 20 years, a contract that is expected to generate billions of dollars in additional revenue. The average selling price of electricity is 8.8 cents per kilowatt-hour, or twice the industrial rate in Quebec.
The proposed transmission line through Maine is the alternative developed by Hydro-Quebec and its US partner after their first route through New Hampshire, known as the Northern Pass, was rejected.