Franklin Countys First News

Letter to the Editor: Lines crossing lines

A common misnomer in the debate about CMP’s NECEC transmission corridor to deliver power from Quebec to Massachusetts is that CMP owns all of the land along the route. That simply isn’t true. This line would cross (and substantially impact) public reserve land, and as Rick explains, the closed-door negotiations CMP engaged in with two administrations were a direct violation of the Maine Constitution.

I find it to be outrageous that CMP, the least trusted utility company in the country, was permitted to skirt Maine law by two governors in a row. Maine isn’t an extension cord for Massachusetts, and our public lands weren’t protected so CMP and Hydro-Quebec (owned by the Canadian government) can profit.

CMP’s NECEC Corridor project is deeply unpopular, which is all the more reason for them to follow the letter of the law. But instead, they are spending record amounts on flashy ads to convince Maine voters while holding court with Maine leaders behind closed doors and in violation of the law.

We can’t let this stand. Please join me in voting “Yes” this November.

Michelle Stevens
Solon

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7 Responses »

  1. There are different types of public lands, there are two categories, designated public land and non-designated public land.
    Designated public lands are your national, state and local parks, monuments, protected lands, untamed wilderness(no human constructs or industry) areas, battlefields, historic sites, etc.
    non-designated public lands are lands that the public "owns" that have no official use and are governed by eminent domain and managed by the state, in Maine it is the Bureau of Parks and Lands.
    Designated public land in Maine requires a 2/3rds vote from congress in order to be undesignated so as to be repurposed, where as non-designated land doesn't, it can be used through eminent domain for the use of utility corridors, railroad tracks, gas and oil pipelines or hydroelectric dams.
    Now under the rules of eminent domain, the state just can't grant a lease to CMP without just compensation, which would appear to be CMP agreeing to pay for the upkeep and the state designating 40,000 acres of non-designated public lands as protected public lands, this means selective low impact timber harvesting, trails and camping areas and boat launches, in exchange for letting CMP use a very small section of non-designated public land.
    40,000 acres of permanently protected land for a few hundred acres of non protected land, sounds fair to me.

  2. The next logical question is where is this 40,000 acres located? I dont believe ive seen this info printed anywhere. Is it one or two large parcels of land worthy of protection? Or is it a half acre here and a half acre there of crap land CMP has no further use for?

  3. HB, you missed this one ........ the issue with public lands and cmp is that the legislature is supposed to VOTE on any lease provided for state lands has be approved by vote. And particularly now that there is a distinct change of land use - the corridor. Andrew Cutko made a 'back room' deal with cmp and this violates the Maine constitution.

    The 40,000 acre issue comes from the MDEP and all cmp needs to do is to cobble together a few large landowners to make 40,000 and create a management plan that will be reviewed and likely approved by MDEP, given Jerry Reid's propensity for corporate favor.

  4. Ozerki, Here is the law on public reserve lands(Maine state terminology for any land not used for parks and the other things I mentioned previously,

    the law:
    Lease of public reserved land for utilities and rights-of-way. The bureau of parks and lands may lease the right, for a term not exceeding 25 years, to:
    A. Set and maintain or use poles, electric power transmission and telecommunication transmission facilities, roads, bridges and landing strips; [PL 1997, c. 678, §13.]
    B. Lay and maintain or use pipelines and railroad tracks; and [PL 1997, c. 678, §13.]
    C. Establish and maintain or use other rights-of-way.

    Nowhere in that law does it say anything about congress.

    Here is what the Maine constitution has to say,

    The Legislature shall have power to provide for the assessment of the following types of real estate whenever situated in accordance with a valuation based upon the current use thereof and in accordance with such conditions as the Legislature may enact:

    A. Farms and agricultural lands, timberlands and woodlands;

    B. Open space lands which are used for recreation or the enjoyment of scenic natural beauty*

    C. Lands used for game management or wildlife sanctuaries; and

    D. Waterfront land that is used for or that supports commercial fishing activities.

    In implementing paragraphs A, B, C and D, the Legislature shall provide that any change of use higher than those set forth in paragraphs A, B, C and D, except when the change is occasioned by a transfer resulting from the exercise or threatened exercise of the power of eminent domain.

    *local, state or national park, nature preserve, wildlife refuge,wilderness area or similar protected area.

    Apparently, the state can tax Acadia as well, I wonder if we do?

    Lastly,

    State park land, public lots or other real estate held by the State for conservation or recreation purposes and designated by legislation implementing this section may not be reduced or its uses substantially altered except on the vote of 2/3 of all the members elected to each House.

    Which doesn't apply here as the land in question is not designated for conservation or recreation, for the definition of recreation lands, please see above. It is non-designated public land or non-designated public reserve land to use the Maine terminology.

  5. HB - here is what I have:

    https://www.mainepublic.org/post/cmp-transmission-line-faces-new-legal-challenges-including-one-over-public-lands

    A short excerpt - At issue is a mile-long section of land, 300-feet wide, in the West Forks area, which the Bureau of Public Lands (BPL) leased to CMP back in 2014.

    The filers say that the Bureau failed to get a two-thirds vote of the state Legislature, which the state Constitution requires for leases that would "reduce" or "substantially alter" the character of public reserve lands.

    "I find it offensive that the Bureau of Public lands did not fulfill the Constitutional mandate."

    This supposedly is the legislative issue about which I referred. Of course this won't be followed, but it seems that it is part of Maine's Constitution.

  6. Ozerki, This is the part of the constitution in question,

    "State park land, public lots or other real estate held by the State for conservation or recreation purposes and designated by legislation implementing this section may not be reduced or its uses substantially altered except on the vote of 2/3 of all the members elected to each House."

    That land is none of the above. And then, because they know that argument is weak as hell, they bring up money, CMP paid the Passamaquoddy a cool million for that lease(not public land), and the filers claim that CMP didn't offer a fair market value in 2014 for the public land it did lease, market value was $1840 per acre, CMP offered $1460 per acre, $1460 is a fair offer based on the market value at that time, the offer was submitted and accepted by the BPL. The fact that market value has gone from $1840 to $2100 in 6 years changes nothing, CMP has a 25 year lease based on 2014 not 2020 prices. And then because the money argument is weak as well, the filers go on to claim that the BPL didn't know what CMP was up to, when in fact the plans for the NECEC have been a matter of public record since 2013.
    No judge in the world is going to side with the filers in this case.

  7. HB, I think that the contentious part is that the 'uses substantially altered . . . "

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