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The Northern Pass

Northern Pass, a corporate partnership among power companies Northeast Utilities, PSNH and Hydro-Quebec, proposes to construct 1100 towers on 180 miles of high-voltage transmission line from Canada through New Hampshire. When the Northern Pass project was presented to the public, the Forest Society listened to its proponents and carefully considered their arguments. As an organization that has modeled the use of renewable energy systems at our headquarters in Concord and advocated energy conservation and sustainable energy policies, we are aware of the benefits of the use of renewable hydropower. We have supported policies to promote the use of New Hampshire's own renewable energy sources, especially those that use sustainable forestry to generate energy from biomass.

However, we concluded that the downsides of Northern Pass far outweigh any potential positives. We strongly oppose Northern Pass as proposed. To learn more about why we oppose Northern Pass, and the permitting process it will require, click here.


To make your voice heard and stay up-to-date, register with Trees NOT Towers.

To contribute financially, click here.

Click here to read the Forest Society's scoping comments submitted on June 14 to the US Department of Energy on the Northern Pass proposal.

For a list of talking points that outline the Forest Society's position on Northern Pass, click here.

Click here to read Jane Difley's remarks about Northern Pass on March 14, or click here to listen to a recording of Difley's comments courtesy of WTPL 107.7 The Pulse.

Click here to see an outline of the permitting process, including a map showing the proposed project route.

For a map of the proposed Northern Pass corridor, click here.


The following items are extracted from the No Northern Pass NH blog. Visit the blog to view comments or leave your own.


Update On Energy Bills in the N.H. State Legislature (SB 245, SB 281, SB 569, HB 200)

Forest Society, 4/9/2014

Here's what's going on with SB 245, SB 281, SB 569 and SB 200:


SB 245, the SEC reform bill, passed the Senate on a voice vote and is now before the House Science, Technology and Energy Committee.  April 8 was the first day of ST&E hearings.  Go here for joint testimony from SPNHF, AMC, CLF and TNC.  Please reach out to House members to support SEC reform.

SB 281, which provides the SEC with a policy framework for siting wind energy projects, also passed the Senate on a voice vote, and is now being considered by the House ST&E Committee.  The SEC is already charged with developing administrative rules on wind siting by the end of 2014, but has received little guidance from the legislature on what the rules need to address.  SB 281 provides the SEC with this guidance.  The bill had its initial public hearing before the committee last week. Click here to read joint testimony on SB 281 submitted by the Forest Society and several of our conservation partners.   Please reach out to your House members, especially if they are members of the ST&E Committee, and ask them to support SB 281! 

The two burial bills, HB 569 and SB 200, are both now in the Senate.
HB 569 has been heard by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee; please ask senators to support this bill. You'll find talking points on this blog (scroll down).  

SB 200 sits on the table in the Senate.  It complements HB 569 by creating authority for the NH Department of Transportation to identify and lease state owned transportation corridors for energy infrastructure (like transmission lines and pipelines). You'll find more info on SB 200 by scrolling down in this blog.

Talking Points for SB 281

Forest Society, 3/11/2014

SB 281: Policy Guidance for New Energy Facility Siting Rules

SB 99 enacted last session tasked the SEC with developing and adopting new administrative rules that establish regulatory criteria for the siting of energy facilities in New Hampshire by Jan. 1, 2015.  The goal was for these new criteria to guide the SEC in making the required statutory findings as to whether a proposed facility’s application met the test for regulatory approval.  

Another goal for these new rules was to assure the public, energy facility developers and all stakeholders in the SEC’s decision-making process that SEC decisions would be guided by a common set of decision-making criteria.  


SB 281 provides the SEC with direction on what policy goals should be met with the new administrative rules mandated by SB 99.  It offers eight discrete standards that the new rules should address.  It also authorizes the SEC to provide a property value guarantee to individual landowners when the SEC concludes that the landowner’s real estate value is adversely impacted by the siting of a specific project. 


If you have questions or comments regarding SB 281, please contact Chris Wells at cwells@forestsociety.org or 224-9945.

Talking Points for SB 200 and SB 245

Forest Society, 3/11/2014

SB 200: State-Owned Transportation Corridors as Energy Facility Corridors

This bill is designed to address urgent concerns raised by communities and landowners directly in the path of a non-reliability, elective, merchant transmission line proposed to bring Canadian electricity to southern New England through New Hampshire. If this power is wanted to meet southern New England’s energy needs, it should not be transmitted through New Hampshire on towers well above tree height if the communities and landowners directly affected do not want these large overhead transmission facilities.    

The SB 361 Commission reported that there was a feasible alternative to large overhead transmission systems: undergrounding along state-owned transportation corridors.  SB 200 provides statutory authority for the New Hampshire Department of Transportation to identify state-owned transportation corridors that could be used for underground energy facilities --- like electric transmission lines or gas pipelines.  It provides the SEC with authority to request proposals from energy facility developers and to lease at fair-market value energy corridors designated.  It also provides the SEC with the authority to prioritize underground siting of merchant electric transmission lines in cases where the projects are not required for system reliability.

This process will be a triple win for the State of New Hampshire.  First, it provides developers of energy transmission facilities workable, long distance corridors.  Second, it provides an underground alternative to unsightly overhead transmission lines.   And third, it provides the state with a new revenue stream for road and bridge maintenance.  New Hampshire should be on the front edge of new technologies that offer innovative ways of meeting present and future energy needs.  SB 200 provides a pathway for New Hampshire to be on the leading edge.

As a North Country business owner wrote in Monday's Berlin Daily Sun, SB 200 is good for business and good for people: the bill "provide[s] some stability and foresight in the planning of certain large energy infrastructure projects. Energy developers will know that certain types of projects will have a corridor available and correspondingly are not appropriate outside the corridor. This will reduce if not eliminate a lot of the wasted time, effort and money expended in trying to site controversial projects. The efficient use of human and capital resources in developing large projects is of critical importance. As an investor and shareholder of energy related projects, greater efficiency makes sense to me."

SB 245 – Reforming the Site Evaluation Committee

In the spring of 2013, Commissioner Burack told a House committee that the current SEC process was close to the “breaking point” and that legislative reform was needed.  In response, the Legislature passed SB 99, requiring the Office of Energy and Planning to conduct a public stakeholder process to identify the issues of greatest concern and to issue a report to assist the Legislature in identifying reforms.  That report was presented on December 31, 2013, and informs many of the provisions contained in SB 245. Failure to act this session on SB 245 will likely mean picking up the pieces of a broken process after it happens.

The SEC is presently structured as “one stop shopping” for developers of energy facilities that generate or transmit electricity in volumes of 30 megawatts or more.  Under current law, 15 state agency heads serve as standing members of the SEC; they sit as judges on applications for new energy facilities in an adjudicative process established in RSA 162-H. These "judges" approve the application as presented, approve it with conditions, or deny it.

SB 245 addresses the following problems in the present structure and process:

1. Disconnect between the statute's core purpose and the decision-making the SEC is tasked to perform: no public interest finding required.The fundamental purpose of RSA 162-H is to serve the public interest in balancing the environment with the need for new energy. Yet none of the statutory findings the SEC is now required to establish in rendering a decision includes answering the big picture question of whether a proposed project is actually in the public interest.

SB 245 adds two new required findings to the three currently required by the statute (RSA 162-H:16). The first new finding is that the SEC must make a determination that the project is in the public interest. The second is that the SEC must make a determination that the proposed project is consistent with the State’s energy policy presently being developed by the Office of Energy and Planning.

2. The absence of a role for municipalities in the decision-making process. Municipalities have no seat at the SEC table where land use decisions directly impacting the community are made.

SB 245 does not remedy this deficiency by placing a member of the impacted community on the SEC, but it does require regional representation of public members to serve on the SEC.  It also requires the new public interest finding to specifically consider local zoning ordinances and municipal master plans in reaching a determination on the question of whether the project proposed is in the public interest.  

3. Public engagement in the SEC process is drastically compressed. Under current law, there is only one required public hearing on a proposed application, which must occur within 30 days of an SEC determination that an application is complete and ready for SEC consideration.  The public learns about the details of the project at the same hearing at which it is expected to comment.

SB 245 changes this by requiring the applicant to hold apre-application public information meeting and by requiring the SEC to hold a post application public information meeting followed by a later public hearing.  This provides the applicant with the opportunity to share the project formally with the public before submitting an application, and it provides the public with an opportunity to learn about the application as proposed BEFORE it is afforded the opportunity to make substantive comments on the proposal.  SB 245 also clarifies the role of the “public counsel” in SEC proceedings; the public counsel is an assistant attorney general appointed by the Attorney General to assure that the public interest in a well-informed SEC decision is attained with each application considered by the SEC.

4. The 15 statutory members of the SEC do not have the time necessary to fulfill the task of sitting on today’s SEC as judges. One application alone can consume 25 or more full days of a commissioner’s work year.  This makes it extremely difficult for them to do the primary jobs they are each hired to do.  

SB 245 proposes to replace the current statutory members of the SEC with an independent panel of seven individuals, nominated and vetted through the same process that senior agency leaders are now nominated and vetted.  Under SB 245 the state agencies will continue to provide the SEC with information critical to the decisions the SEC makes, but they will no longer be required to have their leaders serve as SEC judges.  

5. The SEC has no staff or resources to do one of the most important and high profile responsibilities performed by state government on behalf of the state’s citizens.  No application fee is charged to an applicant, yet the state spends thousands of taxpayer dollars in payroll and benefits alone for each day that the members of the SEC meet, take testimony and deliberate on an application.


SB 245 rectifies this resource drain by providing a means to charge fees to recover the costs of doing the SEC’s work and by providing the SEC with a staff director.

NOTE: See the amended versions of HB 200 and HB 245 in the N.H. Senate Calendar.

If you have questions or comments regarding SB 200 or SB 245, please contact Will Abbott at wabbott@forestsociety.org or 224-9945.



Testimony in favor of SB200, the Bradley burial bill

Forest Society, 2/19/2014


February 19, 2014

The Honorable Russell Prescott, Chairman
Committee on Energy & Natural Resources
New Hampshire State Senate
The State House
Concord, NH  03301

Dear Chairman Prescott:

Our organizations support SB 200 and the protocols it creates for the potential use of state-owned transportation rights of way as locations for energy infrastructure.  We believe SB 200 provides a possible pathway for a win-win resolution of difficult issues presented by new merchant transmission projects likely to arise in today’s rapidly transforming energy market place.

We recognize that to successfully meet future electricity needs in New Hampshire and New England new and upgraded transmission systems will be needed to get electricity from its source to consumers.  We also recognize that in each choice we make about specific energy projects there are trade-offs, often complicated by the dynamic electricity market itself.  SB 200 provides New Hampshire with a new pathway to meet future electricity transmission needs while at the same time avoiding the most negative impacts of large over-head transmission towers.  It may also provide a new stream of revenue to the State to help meet the needs of highway and bridge maintenance.
 
If New Hampshire is to host a high voltage extension cord from Quebec to electricity markets to our south, the extension cord must only be built on terms that are acceptable to the people of New Hampshire, and particularly to the communities directly affected by a proposed project.  SB 200 provides New Hampshire with a means to address the new breed of overhead merchant transmission lines that can unnecessarily scar communities and their natural landscapes.  New burial technology developed by manufacturers in Europe allow for burial of high-voltage direct current cables in a way that could deliver power through New Hampshire to markets south of us without the unsightly impacts of an overhead transmission system. 

In its 2012 session the General Court enacted SB 361, which created a legislative commission to look into the feasibility of undergrounding of high voltage electric transmission systems within state-owned transportation corridors.  The final report of the SB 361 Commission was conveyed to former Governor John Lynch on November 30, 2012.  The Commission heard testimony over four months from a wide variety of stakeholders, including:
·        The Maine State Office of Planning, charged with implementation of a Maine statute designed to invite bids from private energy facility developers to use  Maine transportation corridors for underground utility infrastructure;
·        ABB, a Swiss company that has developed “ HVDC Light” technology, which it claims can be cost competitive with overhead transmission systems when taking into account all operating expenses over the life of a project; the company has working applications of this technology in Denmark and Australia; ABB has started to build a manufacturing facility for this new HVDC Light cable in the southeastern United States in anticipation of a growing market for their produce in North America;
·        The New Hampshire Department of Transportation, which identified for the Commission four specific transportation corridors that would be eligible for hosting such underground electric systems — Interstates 93, 89, 95 and Route 101 between Manchester and the Seacoast;
·        Independent System Operator New England, the non-profit that manages wholesale electricity markets for the New England grid;
·        The New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission; and
·        Representatives of utilities serving the New Hampshire electricity market.
The Commission unanimously concluded that use of state-owned transportation corridors should be explored further.  The majority of legislators on the panel concluded that legislation should be introduced that requires merchant transmission projects proposing to build an overhead transmission system in New Hampshire also submit to the NH Site Evaluation Committee an underground alternative.  Earlier this year, the House passed HB 569, which would amend the SEC’s authorizing statute to provide the guidance that favors underground alternatives to overhead merchant transmission systems.  SB 200 puts the State in the position of having a process in place that allows the State to offer specific state-owned corridors for such underground facilities.
 
New technology for transmission of bulk electricity long distances is clearly moving in the direction of constructing such facilities in workable underground corridors.  There will likely be strong public support for such technology, particularly from communities that would otherwise be negatively impacted by over-head facilities.  It is clear that underground HVDC projects proposed for Maine, Vermont, and New York are meeting with a level of public acceptance not present for the overhead project currently being proposed for New Hampshire.  Even Hydro-Québec has recently agreed to bury its new transmission facility north of the international boundary that will interconnect with the Champlain-Hudson Express HVDC project, bringing 1000 megawatts of electricity from Québec to New York City. 
 
With SB 200, New Hampshire can set a high but attainable bar for meeting new electricity needs while at the same time protecting the natural landscapes that make our State so distinctive.  We strongly encourage the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to recommend “Ought to Pass” on SB 200 to the full Senate. 
 
Sincerely,
 
Will Abbott, Society for the Protection of NH Forests

        wabbott@forestsociety.org, 224-9945, Ext 327
Susan Arnold, Appalachian Mountain Club

        sarnold@outdoors.org, 664-2050
Christophe Courchesne, Conservation Law Foundation

        ccourchesne@clf.org, 225-3060, Ext 3017
Jim O’Brien, The Nature Conservancy

        jim_obrien@tnc.org, 224-5853, Ext 28

Everywhere we look...we see transmission lines being buried.

Forest Society, 2/19/2014




EverywhereWeLook01
EverywhereWeLook02
In Maine,underground along Interstate 95, the Northeast Energy Link.Read about the project | This project in the news
In Vermont,the New England Clean Power Link, designed to bring HQ power to the region.Read about the project | This project in the news
In New York,under rail beds and Lake Champlain, the Champlain-Hudson Express, designed to bring HQ power to New York.Read about the project | This project in the news
In Quebec,where Hydro-Quebec itself is putting the Canadian stretch of the Champlain-Hudson Express underground.
Read about the project
EverywhereWeLook04
EverywhereWeLook05
EverywhereWeLook06
EverywhereWeLook07
In New Hampshire, Northern Pass instead proposes to use outdated technology to drape 180 miles of overhead transmission line on 1500 towers across two-thirds of the state. Burial would avoid the scar and the subsidy.
The New Hampshire Department of Transportation has identified four existing state-owned transportation corridors that could host underground utility infrastructure. NH would get revenue from leasing such state-owned rights of way.
Don't Give Hydro Quebec and Northeast Utilities a free pass
to let Northern Pass ruin New Hampshire's treasured landscapes and towns.
EverywhereWeLook09
EverywhereWeLook16EverywhereWeLook14EverywhereWeLook1
































In Maine,
underground along Interstate 95, the Northeast Energy Link.
Read about the project | This project in the news

In Vermont,
the New England Clean Power Link, designed to bring HQ power to the region.
Read about the project | This project in the news

In New York,
under rail beds and Lake Champlain, the Champlain-Hudson Express, designed to bring HQ power to New York.
Read about the project | This project in the news

In Quebec,
where Hydro-Quebec itself is putting the Canadian stretch of the Champlain-Hudson Express underground.
Read about the project
















































In New Hampshire, Northern Pass instead proposes to use outdated technology to drape 180 miles of overhead transmission line on 1500 towers across two-thirds of the state. Burial would avoid the scar and the subsidy.

The New Hampshire Department of Transportation has identified four existing state-owned transportation corridors that could host underground utility infrastructure. NH would get revenue from leasing such state-owned rights of way.

Don't Give Hydro Quebec and Northeast Utilities a free pass
to let Northern Pass ruin New Hampshire's treasured landscapes and towns.




































































In Maine,
underground along Interstate 95, the Northeast Energy Link.
Read about the project | This project in the news

In Vermont,
the New England Clean Power Link, designed to bring HQ power to the region.
Read about the project | This project in the news

In New York,
under rail beds and Lake Champlain, the Champlain-Hudson Express, designed to bring HQ power to New York.
Read about the project | This project in the news

In Quebec,
where Hydro-Quebec itself is putting the Canadian stretch of the Champlain-Hudson Express underground.
Read about the project
















































In New Hampshire, Northern Pass instead proposes to use outdated technology to drape 180 miles of overhead transmission line on 1500 towers across two-thirds of the state. Burial would avoid the scar and the subsidy.

The New Hampshire Department of Transportation has identified four existing state-owned transportation corridors that could host underground utility infrastructure. NH would get revenue from leasing such state-owned rights of way.

Don't Give Hydro Quebec and Northeast Utilities a free pass
to let Northern Pass ruin New Hampshire's treasured landscapes and towns.






































































In Maine,
underground along Interstate 95, the Northeast Energy Link.
Read about the project | This project in the news

In Vermont,
the New England Clean Power Link, designed to bring HQ power to the region.
Read about the project | This project in the news

In New York,
under rail beds and Lake Champlain, the Champlain-Hudson Express, designed to bring HQ power to New York.
Read about the project | This project in the news

In Quebec,
where Hydro-Quebec itself is putting the Canadian stretch of the Champlain-Hudson Express underground.
Read about the project
















































In New Hampshire, Northern Pass instead proposes to use outdated technology to drape 180 miles of overhead transmission line on 1500 towers across two-thirds of the state. Burial would avoid the scar and the subsidy.

The New Hampshire Department of Transportation has identified four existing state-owned transportation corridors that could host underground utility infrastructure. NH would get revenue from leasing such state-owned rights of way.

Don't Give Hydro Quebec and Northeast Utilities a free pass
to let Northern Pass ruin New Hampshire's treasured landscapes and towns.











































































































































Why Passing House Bill 569 is a Good Idea

Forest Society, 1/14/2014




HB 569 is a good first step toward recognizing that there are new burial technologies that can mitigate the adverse impacts of large new overhead transmission facilities. It also makes a clear statement that New Hampshire should join with our neighboring states to encourage the use of these new technologies to protect our natural landscapes from degradation.

You can read an op-ed written by Sugar Hill resident Nancy Martland,
HB569: Buried Lines Should Be the Preferred Option about the bill.
 
The House Committee on Science, Technology & Energy overwhelmingly voted to recommend “Ought To Pass” for HB 569 after considerable public testimony and Committee deliberation. 

The bill as recommended provides the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee (established in RSA 162-H) with guidance on siting of new electricity transmission lines, guidance which recognizes the value of New Hampshire natural landscapes statewide. 
 
Here's the text of HB569:
New Section;  Criteria for Approving Transmission Lines for Certificates.  Amend  RSA 162-H by inserting after section 2 the following new section:
162-H:2-a  Criteria for Approving  Transmission Lines  for  Certificates.  In  determining that  a transmission line  as  described  in  RSA 162-H:2, VII(d)  and  (e) meets  the  criteria for  a certificate under this chapter, the committee shall  take into consideration the following:
I. Use of existing public rights  of way, or, when unavailable, of private rights of way shall be the preferred, but not required, option for locating all new electric transmission lines.
II.  Burial  of electric  transmission lines shall be the preferred, but not required, option for all elective electric transmission lines with supports over 50 feet.
III.   The committee  may  presume  that  any line  not required for system  reliability and  not proposed  to be substantially buried  will have  an  unreasonably adverse  effect  on  aesthetics.    The applicant may, by a preponderance of the evidence, demonstrate that  an above-ground line should be approved   due  to  particular  circumstances, including   but  not  limited   to,  engineering  feasibility, adverse   environmental impact,  substantially  disproportionate cost  factors,   and  lack  of negative impact for the route involved.
HB 569 does not mandate burial of any transmission lines.  Specifically the bill says the SEC shall “take into consideration” in its determination of whether a new transmission project should be permitted the following:

o   The new line should consider using existing publicly owned rights of way for new transmission facilities

o   Burial should be the preferred option for elective transmission lines which would otherwise require above ground towers in excess of 50 feet in height (tree line)

o   Consider the presumption that large new above ground transmission facilities not needed for reliability of the current electric grid will have an unreasonably adverse effect on aesthetics

·        If an applicant for a new transmission facility can demonstrate to the SEC that a preponderance of the evidence warrants that a new elective transmission line should be built above ground rather than underground this bill explicitly provides the authority of the SEC to make such a finding.

·        New Hampshire presently hosts approximately 1400 miles of existing transmission lines.  HB 569 will have no impact on these lines.

·        New Hampshire presently hosts approximately 18,000 linear miles of existing distribution lines, the lines that move electricity to end users.  HB 569 will have no impact on these lines.  

·        HB 569 only applies to new transmission lines, and the burial provision (again not a mandate) only applies to new transmission lines that are elective, those facilities not needed to serve the reliability of the electric grid.    

Analysts Talk Turkey on Northern Pass

Forest Society, 11/14/2013 (updated 11/25/2013)

The following was published by Washington Analysis, a financial analyis firm in DC, offering an opinion on Northeast Utilities' optimistic view of their Northern Pass project:


Northeast Utilities' Northern Pass: The Neverending Story [NU]

by Rob Rains [202-756-4431] and Tim VandenBerg [202-756-7714] -- We caution investors that Northeast Utilities' (NU-$42) Northern Pass transmission project, which would  transport 1,200 megawatts (MW) of hydro power supplied by Hydro-Québec from Canada into New England, likely faces significant delays and cost increases.  The New England Independent System Operator (ISO-NE) forecasts that, due to the retirement of more than 8,000 MW of generation, including Entergy's(ETR-$63) Vermont Yankee, the region will need 6,000 MW of generation by 2020 to replace it.  Coal consumption is rapidly decreasing in the region, with only six plants remaining, and if replacement power is not supplied by hydro then it will likely come from natural gas.

Regulatory hurdles and substantial political headwinds will likely prevent the project from going into service before 2018, at the earliest with delays until 2019-2020 very possible as well.  We simply disagree with Northeast Utilities' past statement that it expects Northern Pass to be in service in 2017 and that it will receive state siting approval in 2015. 

We also expect the firm to succumb to overwhelming political pressure from Gov. Maggie Hassan (D), Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R), and state lawmakers calling for them to bury more of the project underground in the northernmost portion of the state, beginning in Pittsburg and traveling through Coos County.  This will significantly increase the already $1.4 billion price tag of the project and the time to completion.  We note that Northeast Utilities' revised proposal, which called for burying just 7.5 miles of the 187-mile project underground, raised costs by more than 16%.  Although 147 miles of Northern Pass will be built on existing rights of way, the most contested portion of the project is a stretch beginning in Pittsburg near the Canadian border and making its way through Coos County and further south.  Residents are upset because an above ground transmission line would necessitate 100-150-foot towers that would obstruct residents' scenic views.  Political opposition is strong and bipartisan and we think the company will ultimately need to bury this stretch of the line in order to appease residents and move the project forward.

Delays and continued uncertainty should be viewed as a positive for natural gas fuel usage in the region, which already supplies 53% of the electricity to New England, even though transportation constraints during winter months remain an issue.  Hydro generation accounts for about 8% of net electricity generation in New England, but transmission remains a huge concern and natural gas pipelines could fill this need in lieu of this resource.  We note that from 2013-2016, New England will be bringing 1,193 MW of capacity online, and 50% of it will be natural gas, with 35% from wind. 

In addition to a lengthy review time for a presidential permit, approval from the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee (NHSEC) is also needed.  Northeast Utilities expects this process to take one year to complete, but we think it will take at least two years from the time of submission. 

Additional points for investors to consider include the following:

·        After more than two years, last week the DOE closed its comment period on the scopeof an eventual draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that  is unlikely to be published before late Q2 2014.  While the DOE received just ~5,600 comments, it has demonstrated a heightened sensitivity to the politics of this proposal, as evidenced by leaving the scoping comment period open for more than two years.

·        After the draft EIS is published, DOE will commence a 60-90 day comment period, and will likely hold at least one hearing (possibly more) within the state.  Earlier scoping hearings were very well attended, and the prevailing feedback was negative, increasing the uncertainty over the project's future.

·        A final EIS is unlikely before Q1 2015 and triggers an up-to 90-day interagency review process among federal agencies.  At this point, Secretary Ernest Moniz could make a decision sometime in 2H 2015, or else Q1 2016.  Given opposition to the project, this decision will likely be appealed in federal court, further increasing the uncertainty about the project's federal permits.

·        At the state level, Northeast Utilities may submit its application for NHSEC review with only the draft EIS.  This will be equal in importance to the DOE review, but it is less certain due to its structure. 

·        The NHSEC is a 15-member body of officials that work for other state agencies and convene for specific proposals.  Its statutory underpinning calls for decisions on projects within nine months, but this has routinely been surpassed for far smaller projects within the state with much less political headwind.  We believe that it will most likely be at least two years before the NHSEC approves Northern Pass from the date the application is submitted, which we expect by Q3 2014. In light of landowner and stakeholder opposition, an NHSEC decision is almost certain to be followed by requests for rehearing and then by appeals to the New Hampshire Supreme Court, which could easily take more than a year. 

·        Although NHSEC approves the project itself, it has no authority to exercise eminent domain.  We view this as material because there is a persistent legal question about whether or not Northeast Utilities must purchase any additional rights of way to fully complete construction.  We note that the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests is likely to challenge this assertion in state court, fueling uncertainty about the completion of this project.

·        Unlike interstate natural gas pipelines that NHSEC has reviewed in the past, which carry federal eminent domain authority, this is not an option for Northern Pass.  The New Hampshire legislature closed that option in 2012 specifically for non-reliability projects like this. 

·        New Hampshire politicians, including Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) and Sen. Ayotte (R), oppose the project in its current state and have called for additional miles of the line to be buried underground.  We view the political pressure in the state as likely to force the company to bury more of the project to secure approval by the NHSEC.  The recent announcement of the 150-mile 1,000 MW TDI Blackstone (BX-$27) transmission line that will be buried under Lake Champlain has fueled the belief by many within the Granite state that Northeast Utilities can and should bury Northern Pass.

·        Once completed, the project will transport 1,200 MW, or more than 8% of New England's current electricity supply, of predominantly hydroelectric power, under a 40-year agreement with Hydro-Québec.

·        Recent plant shutdowns totaling more than 8,000 MW and the need for 6,000 MW of replacement power should drive additional natural gas consumption within the region.  We note that closures like Dominion's(D-$66) Salem Harbor-coal (740 MW), Brayton Point (1,500 MW), and Entergy'sVermont Yankee (640 MW) are all in the works.

Additional information is available upon request.

Washington Analysis conducts economic and political legislative and regulatory analysis.  This report is for private circulation and distribution in its entirety and is based upon information believed to be reliable.  However, we cannot guarantee accuracy and are neither responsible for errors of transmission of information, nor liable for damages resulting from reliance on this information.  Opinions in this report constitute the personal judgment of the analysts and are subject to change without notice.  The information in the report is not an offer to purchase or sell any security, nor do the analysts receive any compensation in exchange for any specific recommendation or view expressed in this report.  Directors and/or employees of Washington Analysis may own securities, options or other financial instruments of the issuers discussed herein.

Washington Analysis, 1120 Connecticut Avenue, NW Suite 400

Washington, DC 20036

Tel:  202/659-8030     Fax:  202/463-5137

 

 

Gamechanger: Is Northern Pass Obsolete?

Forest Society, 11/7/2013 (updated 11/25/2013)

As reported by a variety of sources, including AP reporter Wilson Ring, a New York company is proposing to build a 1,000MW transmission line to bring power from Hydro-Quebec to New England via Vermont. Unlike the 1200MW Northern Pass proposal, the $1.2 billion "New England Clean Power Link" would be placed under water and underground.
 
Given that the Vermont proposal would bring the same energy to the same market at a comparable price in a similar time frame, it would seem that Northern Pass will find it difficult to make a case for an overhead line that has met fierce public opposition.
 
"I would say Northern Pass is obsolete and I would add that it is politically untenable," Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests spokesman Jack Savage said. PSNH's only hope to hold onto a transmission project now would be to go underground using transportation corridors, he said.
"Northern Pass missed their window of opportunity ... because they have been fixated on existing right-of-ways...They have as much chance of building an overhead (transmission project) as the St. Louis Cardinals do of winning a game 7," he added.
 
Kathryn Marchocki's  story in the Union Leader can be read here:
 
 
Wilson Ring's AP story:
 
Montpelier--A New York company announced Thursday it hopes to build a 150-mile power line from the Canadian border under Lake Champlain and then across Vermont to the town of Ludlow where it would plug into the New England electric grid.
The $1.2 billion New England Clean Power Link line could carry up to 1,000 megawatts of Canadian hydro-electricity, enough to supply about 1 million homes, said Donald Jessome, president of TDI New England.
TDI New England is a subsidiary of the New York based investment giant Blackstone Group, which would provide funding for the project. Jessome said he expected it would take five years to complete the regulatory process and construction. The company hopes to begin transmitting power in 2019.
You can read the rest of the AP story here:

http://www.vnews.com/news/9129786-95/proposed-hydropower-line-would-run-from-quebec-to-ludlow-vt


Forest Society Calls on DOE to Suspend Northern Pass Permitting Process

Forest Society, 11/5/2013 (updated 11/15/2013)

In her most recent comments on the scope of the Environmental Impact Statement, Forest Society President/Forester Jane Difley called on the Department of Energy to suspend the permitting process.

"We believe that the Department should suspend the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process until the Applicant can establish that it has secured the legal rights to utilize the preferred and alternative routes," Difley wrote. "It would be a profound misapplication of the core principle of NEPA --- to assure that the public interest is served by the consideration of least damaging environmental alternatives --- if DOE itself enables continued consideration of the Applicant’s preferred or alternative corridors when neither can stand legally."

"The Amended Proposal preferred corridor proposes to bury 7 plus miles of the transmission facility in two separate segments in northern Coos County. These two underground segments are proposed for the sole reason that there is no other way for the project to connect its other 180 miles of overhead structures.The first underground segment of 2300 feet in the towns of Pittsburg and Clarksville includes approximately 500 feet of distance through land we own in Clarksville, land which presently hosts a right-of-way for US Route 3.This right-of-way was acquired in 1941, jointly by the towns of Pittsburg, Clarksville and Stewartstown for the purpose of hosting a road for public transportation purposes.It is our view that using our otherwise unencumbered land for a private electric transmission facility represents an additional servitude on our land that can only occur with our consent.Without our consent Northern Pass can only acquire this interest in real estate through eminent domain. 

"Given that the New Hampshire Constitution precludes such use of eminent domain by private developers; given that the New Hampshire Legislature has legislatively precluded Northern Pass from using eminent domain to complete its project;and, given that the Forest Society has not consented to the proposed use of this land in Clarksville for the Northern Pass project, we conclude that the Northern Pass proposal relying on our Clarksville land is fatally flawed. The assertion by
Northern Pass that it can simply override our private property rights raises significant constitutional issues.

"The Amended Proposal includes a second segment of 7 plus miles of underground transmission facilities along state and town roads in Clarksville and Stewartstown.The applicant submitted this proposal without consulting the State Department of Transportation, either of the local town governing bodies or the several landowners who actually own the land to the centerline of each of the roads included in the proposal.The Applicant asserts that this project is in the public interest, yet it fails to communicate with the public that will be most impacted by its amended proposal.We believe the DOE should not countenance such an encroachment on public and private property rights by allowing consideration of this “preferred” corridor.
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98% of DOE Comment Cards Oppose Northern Pass

Forest Society, 11/4/2013


The Forest Society submitted comment cards to the Department of Energy today from a total of 2,159 different landowners representing 138 different towns in New Hampshire and several states. Of those, 2123, or 98 percent, express opposition to the proposed overhead transmission line. The balance, 36, or 2 percent, expressed support for Northern Pass.

Each of the cards is addressed to the Department of Energy expressing opposition to Northern Pass. Each card includes the name and address of the person, and their reasons for objecting to Northern Pass. The Forest Society sent the cards to the DOE, as well as tabulated results.

Of those who expressed opposition to Northern Pass, 45 percent said that they opposed it in any form while 48 percent indicated that they could support an alternate route buried along appropriate transportation corridors or that used the existing Hydro Quebec corridor from Canada to Massachusetts.

The respondents also indicated one or more reasons they opposed Northern Pass. Of those, "Impacts on our scenic landscape, tourism and our New Hampshire way of life" and "Impacts on the White Mountain National Forest and other conserved lands" topped the list with 86 percent and 85 percent respectively. Seventy-two percent indicated "The use of eminent domain against private landowners",  followed by "Impact on my land, including property values" at 53%.

The Forest Society believes the voice and will of the people matter when it comes to decision-making and permitting. We have asked the DOE to include as part of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) some measure of the overwhelming objection to Northern Pass as proposed, and some measure of what the impact would be if a permit were granted despite those overwhelming public objections. Though there is no binding popular vote on Northern Pass, public opinions need to count and be acknowledged in the EIS.

The primary purpose of a Presidential Permit is to make a determination that a project crossing an international border actually serves the public interest. The Forest Society believes the DOE should consider, based on public input, a conclusion that the public interest will not be served by granting a Presidential Permit for this project as proposed.  If the DOE reaches such a conclusion, it should reject the application and cease any further work on the EIS.

Read more at the No Northern Pass NH blog.

 

 
 
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