Northern Pass

AMC opposes the Northern Pass Transmission Project as proposed

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The Northern Pass Project

A high-voltage electric transmission line traversing 192 miles through New Hampshire to bring hydropower from Quebec to the New England electric grid.

A transmission corridor two-thirds of which will carry above-ground lines sited on towers up to 155 feet tall, requiring more than 40 miles of new right of way (ROW), and significant expansion of existing ROWs in the North Country and south of Franklin.

A project that is not needed for grid reliability but that cuts a swath through some of New Hampshire's most scenic landscapes, and will degrade natural, cultural, and recreation resources of state, regional, and national significance.

Impacts of the Northern Pass

On New Hampshire

As currently proposed, the project remains above-ground for two-thirds of its route through New Hampshire, and will require 40 miles of new right-of way (ROW) through the forests of Coos County, the widening of existing ROWs further south, and new towers of up to 155 feet tall to carry the lines. The proposed route traverses some of New Hampshire's most scenic landscapes, and will impact tourism and recreational experiences throughout the state.

On the Environment

Northern Pass does not provide "green" power: Northern Pass will require massive hydro impoundments in Quebec, the five largest of which would be the equivalent of flooding 50% of New Hampshire alone, and which would not meet US environmental standards. The project will divert multiple large rivers, most larger than any river in New Hampshire, with devastating impacts on hundreds of miles of river ecosystems. This flooding of boreal forests results in the emission of significant amounts of greenhouse gasses, and releases mercury.

Other Problems

Failure to consider alternative designs and routes

The project applicant has not considered important alternative routes or fully taken advantage of underground transmission technologies. While Northern Pass proposes to bury 60 miles of the 192-mile route, primarily around the White Mountain National Forest, projects in New York and Vermont propose to fully bury comparable high-voltage transmission lines from eastern Canada to southern New England.

Lack of community support

The transmission line would pass through 32 New Hampshire communities, 31 of which have voted to oppose the project (a total of 33 New Hampshire communities have voted to oppose Northern Pass).

Northern Pass Permitting Process

Northern Pass needs three permits in order to be built:

  • A Presidential Permit from the Department of State for the international border crossing between Quebec and New Hampshire
     
  • A Special Use Permit from the White Mountain National Forest for its use of ROWs in the Forest
     
  • A Certificate of Siting from the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee (SEC)

The Presidential Permit process thus far has resulted in a draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) that was released in July 2015. While this document is foundational to all three permits, we do not expect to have a final DEIS until sometime in 2017. And even if both the Presidential Permit and Special Use Permit are granted, the project cannot be built without SEC certification.

The SEC certification process began in December, 2016, when the SEC determined that the Application was complete. AMC has intervened in this quasi-judicial process, and is represented by legal counsel. The "trial" phase of the process began in mid-April, with cross-examination of witnesses who have pre-filed testimony. AMC has filed expert testimony and will be arguing that the project as proposed will have an unreasonable adverse impact on NH's natural character, including impacts to landscape aesthetics, cultural and recreational resources, and forest fragmentation.

 

The latest

The “trial” phase of the NH Site Evaluation Committee (SEC) permitting process began in mid-April, 2017 with the appearance under oath of William Quinlan, President and CEO of Eversource NH. Unlike a trial, these hearings require witnesses to respond to cross-examination about testimony that has been prefiled, and is available on the SEC website. Four AMC staff have filed testimony about the proposed project’s impacts on landscape aesthetics, forest fragmentation, and the visitor and recreation experience (Read the testimony of Kimball and Garland, Publicover, and Thayer respectively). Dr. Kenneth Kimball, Larry Garland, Dr. David Publicover, and Chris Thayer will be “on the stand” to defend their testimony in the months to come. This “trial” phase of the SEC permitting process is expected to last into August and possibly beyond. Specific time for public comment to the SEC from non-intervening parties has also been set aside, and those times are: June 15, June 22, and July 20, 2017, from 9:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. Pre-registration is required, see the provided notice.

In other developments, Massachusetts has released a Clean Energy Request for Proposals (RFP), and Northern Pass will be participating with publicly stated high hopes of succeeding with a winning bid. However, other viable, 100% buried and fully permitted projects will also be submitting bids, so NP’s success is far from assured. Winning bids will not be announced until after the SEC permitting process is complete.

Demand for the power planned to be carried over Northern Pass was brought in question in October of 2016, when the winners of the Southern New England states' Clean Energy RFP (request for proposals) were announced, and Northern Pass was notably not among those selected. Read more on our Conservation Blog, Southern New England States Reject Northern Pass (October 31, 2016).

Other events of course impact the context in which this project is being considered. For example, the permitting of other transmission projects such as the NE Clean Energy Link, the price and supply of natural gas, and growing interest in off-shore wind and energy storage as evidenced by the energy legislation passed in Massachusetts this past summer, all could impact the Northern Pass permitting process. Stay tuned to these pages for regular updates on what is going on with Northern Pass.