The New Hampshire Supreme Court issued a unanimous opinion on July 19, 2019 affirming the unaninmous decision made by the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee on March 30, 2018 to deny Northern Pass a Certificate of Site and Facility. Click here to learn more.
The New Hampshire Supreme Court issued a unanimous opinion on July 19, 2019 affirming the unaninmous decision made by the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee on March 30, 2018 to deny Northern Pass a Certificate of Site and Facility.
The Forest Society applauds the unanimous decision of the Supreme Court affirming the unanimous decision of the Site Evaluation Committee to deny Eversource a siting permit for its Northern Pass project. This brings to an end nine years of collective effort on the part of thousands of New Hampshire citizens to prevent the degradation our State’s exceptional landscapes. The Court strongly affirmed the SEC’s decision, finding that the SEC fully complied with the law and with SEC rules to administer the law.
The Court’s 31 page opinion dismissed in detail each of the three core legal issues Eversource raised in its appeal of the SEC decision. Click here to read the Court’s decision.
Northern Pass was a corporate partnership between Eversource and Hydro-Quebec to construct a 192-mile, high-voltage transmission line from Canada through New Hampshire to bring electricity to load centers in greater Boston. The project was introduced to the public in October 2010 as a private "merchant project" and shortly thereafter became one of the most controversial proposals the state has ever seen. More than 30 towns directly impacted by Northern Pass voted at town meetings to oppose the project. Thousands of individuals have expressed their opposition to federal and state regulators with permitting authorities for the project. More than 8,000 people signed a petition in 2015 urging former Governor Maggie Hassan to insist on the complete burial of Northern Pass.
Early threats by the developers to use eminent domain led to the passing of HB 648 in 2012, which prohibited merchant transmission line projects from using eminent domain. In response, Northern Pass spent more than $40 million buying land in order to gain access to a potential route. However, the Forest Society worked successfully with local landowners to block the route for an overhead line through northern New Hampshire.
Northern Pass would have required more than 40 distinct permits in order to build the project. The major permit required was a state “Certificate of Site and Facility” issued by a statutory Committee created by the NH Legislature to permit the siting of energy facilities larger than 30 megawatts. NP submitted an applicatyion for a siting permit in October 2015. The SEC conducted more than 70 full days of public hearings, and in March 2018 issued a 200 page decision denying the permit. Northern Pass appealed the decision to the Supreme Court, a direct appeal process enabled by the SEC statute.
The Forest Society advocated that if the Northern Pass transmission line is to be built, it should be buried in its entirety along existing transportation corridors. Similar projects in Vermont (The New England Clean Power Link) and Maine by other transmission developers are moving forward as buried projects
From the Forest Society's point of view as a land trust, we made the following arguments during the regulatory review process:
• We must defend conservation lands. NP as proposed would cross and have detrimental impacts on thousands of acres of protected conservation lands. Some of these are lands owned by the Forest Society and many are private lands on which the Forest Society holds permanent conservation easements. We have both an ethical and legal obligation to defend these lands, held in public trust, from unnecessary commercial development and degradation.
• We must protect New Hampshire’s scenic landscapes. The permanent protection of “places with special scenic beauty” has been part of our mission since 1901. Our work is partly responsible for the scenic landscapes that attract millions of tourists to our state every year and make tourism our second-largest industry providing tens of thousands of jobs. The route chosen for the Northern Pass would degrade these landscapes and compromise the quality of life we leave to future generations.
• We must safeguard our forests. The power line corridor and 90- to 135-foot-tall towers will permanently alter the lands they cross, fragmenting forests, disrupting wildlife habitat, disfiguring communities and lowering property values.
• We must fight for the New Hampshire advantage. There is no clear long-term public benefit to New Hampshire from the Northern Pass project. As of today, most of the power will be exported to southern New England. If NP was built as proposed, New Hampshire would sacrifice our natural assets in order for a private corporation to reap enormous profits,