Bipartisan group of lawmakers respond to DEP Commissioner regarding failed CMP Corridor taper condition and send letter to BEP about long delayed permit appeals

On July 10, a bipartisan group of legislators who visited Segment 1 of the CMP Corridor sent a letter and detailed report to DEP Commissioner Melanie Loyzim and members of the Board of Environmental Protection to bring attention to the ineffective taper requirement included in New England Clean Energy Connect’s (NECEC) DEP permit. While this condition was intended to protect wildlife habitat, fisheries and vistas, the group observed in June that the tapering condition cannot be met due to the even age nature of the forest, resulting in a clear cut corridor ranging from 84′-104′ wide. This is nearly twice the width allowed in the Department permit. 

The group concluded that, while the tapering condition may be an effective ecological tool on paper, it has no real positive effect at all in practice, which is why they urged Commissioner Loyzim to order a cease operations until the failure of this important condition could be addressed, thoroughly studied and amended.

Commissioner Loyzim responded with a letter on August 2nd. This response completely missed the mark, which is why the legislators of committees of oversight felt strongly that a response in the form of a follow-up letter was necessary. (See attached).

“While we appreciated Commissioner Loyzim’s timely response to our letter, she mischaracterized our observations completely,” said Senator Rick Bennett, a member of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee. “We were clear that CMP’s 100-foot-wide clear cut is due to the failure of a permit condition that was meant to protect valuable and irreplaceable habitat and vistas, and not a violation by the Company.”

The permit clearly states that the taper zones are to be maintained at all times, yet according to Commissioner Loyzim’s letter, the Department seems content to allow destruction to occur with the understanding that it will eventually grow back. 

“It is the Department’s job to protect our environment, so I find this approach very troublesome,” Senator Bennett continued. “NECEC needs to be held to the same high standards as every other company and landowner in Maine, which is why we are renewing our call for the Department to re-evaluate this failed permit condition before it’s too late.” 

“The clear cuts we observed in Segment 1 of the CMP Corridor are extensive and do not meet the permit tapering condition,” said Senator Russell Black, a member of the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee. “As a forester who has worked in and around the woods for five decades, I know a clear cut when I see one, and that’s exactly what’s happening in the heart of the Upper Kennebec Region. Now is the time for the Department to hit pause, and re-evaluate the absolute failure of the tapering requirement.”

Senators Rick Bennett and Russell Black also joined Representatives Scott Landry and Lori Gramlich in sending a letter to William Hinkel, Executive Analyst for the Board of Environmental Protection (also attached) to inquire as to why the Board has yet to address the DEP permit appeal that was filed by NRCM in April of 2020, nearly a year and a half ago. 

“Chapter 2 of the Department Rules clearly states that the board shall decide on appeals ‘as expeditiously as possible’,” said Senator Bennett. “I think we can all agree that the amount of time that has passed is excessive, and in direct violation of Department rules. As a member of the committee of oversight, I would like to know why the Department has slow-walked this appeal while invaluable natural resources in the Upper Kennebec Region are actively being destroyed.”

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Contact: Tom Desjardin Maine Senate Republicans, 207-416-2230

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