A group of 50 Maine lawmakers on Tuesday urged Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker to "honor and respect the vote of the people of Maine" and do what he can to terminate the New England Clean Energy Connect project and pursue other options.

The request, contained in a letter to Baker, references the Nov. 2 Maine ballot question passed by 60 percent of Maine voters that would ban transmission lines such as the NECEC project in the Upper Kennebec region.

"As a bipartisan group of lawmakers representing regions throughout Maine," the letter states, "we discourage Massachusetts from proceeding with this project after the people of Maine delivered a stunning rebuke of the NECEC."

The letter's signers are overwhelmingly Democrats, along with two independents. Baker is a Republican. Baker's media office didn't respond to a request for comment sent via email Tuesday.

Two days after the Nov. 2 election, however, Baker said he had been talking with officials in his administration and Avangrid, the parent company of Central Maine Power and NECEC Transmission, about "what the next move here might be."

Asked by The Boston Globe if he thought the project was effectively dead, Baker replied, "No, I don't see it as dead."

The letter from Maine lawmakers is the latest example of mounting pressure on the controversial $1 billion project. At the moment, construction has been temporarily halted, five days after Gov. Janet Mills certified the election results and asked NECEC to voluntarily stop work. The company agreed to do so, at least until a judge rules on its attempt to keep the pending law from taking effect on Dec. 19.

Meanwhile, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection is considering whether the pending law requires it to suspend or revoke NECEC's license.

In 2016, Baker signed a landmark bill that required Massachusetts utilities to negotiate contracts for 1,200 megawatts of hydroelectric power. That resulted in a deal with Canadian utility Hydro-Quebec for power from a transmission line through New Hampshire, which was subsequently rejected in 2018 by an agency in that state. After that, the Massachusetts utilities pivoted to the NECEC project, which officials say could fill 17 percent of the state's electricity demand.

But project opponents in Maine say the Bay State and its utilities should have pursued other options. Not mentioned in the letter, but often referenced, is a proposal to bring hydropower from Quebec through Vermont, but underground and underwater instead of over land. The Vermont option was among those considered by Massachusetts, but apparently it was rejected because it was deemed too costly.

"Given the vote by Maine people," the letter continues, "the time has come for the (utilities) to move on from the NECEC, as it faces increased legal uncertainties, construction delays and a statewide rejection from the Maine electorate, and to select another project."

The lawmakers add that Maine isn't against all transmission lines, which they agree are needed for the region's transition to heat homes and run cars with renewable energy. The new law, it said, focused on a "poorly sited project" through a portion of Maine's North Woods.

"We are eager to work with Massachusetts and other New England states on regional plans and strategies for renewable energy generation and transmission," the letter states. "We understand the severity of climate change and the need to act quickly and collaboratively."

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