The Big Question: Why Should NH Subsidize Hydro-Quebec?
The Big Question: Why should New Hampshire’s landowners, landscapes and communities subsidize Hydro-Quebec by permitting overhead towers and lines?
Reaction to the latest proposal from Northern Pass, in which they would reduce the size of the project to 1000MW, use advanced cable technology, and bury another 28 percent of the proposed private transmission line, has been mixed at best, and not particularly convincing for those who see no reason it shouldn’t (or can’t) be buried in its entirety. The new proposal would still leave two-thirds of the 190-mile line overhead, and offers no changes for landowners and communities from Franklin to Deerfield. By constrast, the Department of Energy outlined one underground alternative (4a) in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, which would shorten the overall length of the line by more than 15 miles and keep all but two miles underground.
You can read about Sen. Ayotte and Sen. Shaheen’s reactions here (https://www.forestsociety.org/news-article/sen-ayotte-says-northern-pass-needs-bury-more-60-miles) and here (https://www.forestsociety.org/news-article/sen-shaheen-still-concerned-about-northern-pass-despite-revised-proposal) . The Governor was tempered in her response, noting that “I am encouraged that Northern Pass officials have listened and are taking meaningful steps forward in attempting to address those concerns. That process of listening – and making further improvements – must continue.” Stories like this one: https://www.forestsociety.org/news-article/northern-pass-project-remains-lightning-rod reflect the reality that changes and incentives proposed by Northern Pass did not go far enough to buy them a consensus on moving forward..
There are also still many questions to be answered about the latest proposal. It has not gone unnoticed that much of the financial incentive package would directly benefit Eversource itself by virtue of the promised upgrade of the Coos Loop. It has not gone unnoticed that the cost of the project, $1.4 billion, did not rise with the addition of 52 more miles of burial (Eversource executive Bill Quinlan attributed this to the smaller size of the project when he was interviewed on "The Exchange" last week (https://www.forestsociety.org/news-article/will-more-buried-lines-win-over-northern-pass-critics) ). It has not gone unnoticed that NP is still a private transmission line, there has been no determination of need, and that there are other projects (New England Clean Power Link in Vermont) that would yield the same outcome without overhead towers or lines.
It would seem that NP still must answer the question why the rest of the line could not be buried, as the Draft EIS says is feasible, given that Hydro-Quebec is footing the bill. Or, asked another way, why should New Hampshire’s landowners and landscapes subsidize Hydro-Quebec by permitting overhead towers and lines?
The “value proposition” Eversource has made-- that they will offer incentives to offset the fact that they are only offering to bury less than a third of the line—would not appear to be gaining traction. This week a group of opponents 100-strong gathered in Bridgewater (https://www.forestsociety.org/news-article/opponents-northern-pass-hold-strategy-session). This isn’t surprising given that most of the people who would be impacted live where it would remain overhead (Franklin to Deerfield) with the highest towers, none of which would be lowered due to the smaller size of the project. In the far North, the feeling seems to be that once again they are getting the short end of the stick, with 40 new miles of ROW proposed, most of it overhead. It is also the case that the route Northern Pass is proposing would require them to site infrastructure on land the Forest Society owns and easements we hold. The project does not have access to the state’s power of eminent domain.
The Forest Society’s position remains that if Northern Pass is to be built, it should be undergrounded in its entirety. Our reaction to their latest announcement can be read here.
You can find to a summary of other related articles on our website here: https://www.forestsociety.org/topics/northern-pass
We will continue to listen carefully. We will listen at the upcoming Northen Pass public information sessions. We hope to see you there.