New England Clean Energy Connect
Beginning in 2017, Pierce Atwood has represented Avangrid Networks, Inc. and its affiliate CMP on all aspects of the development of the New England Clean Energy Connect (NECEC), a $950 million, 147 mile high-voltage direct current transmission line that will interconnect the New England transmission system with the Hydro-Quebec (HQ) transmission system at the Canadian border in western Maine. Our work began by taking the lead in preparing the proposal for the project in a competitive solicitation conducted by the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (MA DOER) and Massachusetts electric distribution companies (EDCs) for up to 9,450,000 MWh of clean energy generation and associated transmission. In early 2018, the MA DOER and the EDCs selected the NECEC as the winning bid in the solicitation. Thereafter, Pierce Atwood has assisted CMP to negotiate the definitive transmission services agreements (TSAs) with the EDCs and HQ for the project.
In addition to preparing and submitting the proposal and negotiating the applicable agreements, we serve as lead counsel on all aspects of developing the NECEC project in the U.S. This includes obtaining a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN) from the Maine PUC in May 2019, the decision of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court affirming the CPCN in March 2020, an order approving the TSAs by the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities in June 2019, affirmed by the Massachusetts Supreme Court in September 2020, certification from the Maine Land Use Planning Commission in February 2020, Site Law and Natural Resource Protection Act permits from Maine Department of Environmental Protection in May 2020, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permits in November 2020, and a Presidential Permit from the U.S. Department of Energy in January 2021. We also completed the transfer of the project from CMP to a newly formed special purpose affiliate, including obtaining all regulatory approvals needed for this transaction. We continue to defend the project and its permits in various appeals and other litigation matters before the State Courts of Maine, the U.S. District Court for the District of Maine and the First Circuit Court of Appeals.
Pierce Atwood also represents Avangrid with respect to all aspects of two different citizens’ initiatives to have Maine voters approve legislation intended to block the project, including a successful 2020 constitutional challenge to the first proposed initiative before the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. Most recently, in Summer and Fall 2022, the firm received two favorable decisions from the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, reversing decisions of the lower courts regarding the second initiative purporting to block the project and a necessary transmission corridor lease issued by the State of Maine. Through these decisions, the Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the validity of public lands lease, declared one section of the second initiative unconstitutional under the Contracts Clause of the U.S. Constitution, and remanded the case back to the trial court to determine as a matter of fact whether the retroactive application of the remaining sections of the second initiative would deny Avangrid its vested rights in the project in violation of the Due Process Clause of the Maine Constitution. Trial is scheduled for this constitutional claim in April 2023.