AMC Still Opposes Northern Pass Project in New Hampshire
At the end of January 2016 the US Department of Energy (DOE) announced dates for the rescheduled hearings on the draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). The DEIS was updated last fall to reflect the latest “preferred route” of the applicant, Northern Pass Transmission (NPT), and at the request of the NH Congressional delegation, AMC, and others, the hearings were moved from the fall in order to give the public additional time to review the modified DEIS. In the meantime, the NH Site Evaluation Committee (SEC) accepted Northern Pass’s application for a state siting permit as complete, beginning a year-long review of the project by the SEC.
In an effort to limit “hearing fatigue” this winter, the DOE and SEC are having two joint hearings, in addition to several other hearings each body will hold independently. These two joint hearings are currently scheduled as follows:
Colebrook: Monday, March 7, 2016, 5:00 p.m.
Concord: Thursday, March 10, 2016, 5:00 p.m.
In addition to the DOE and SEC, cooperating agencies involved in the DEIS-- White Mountain National Forest (USFS), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – New England District (USACE), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – Region 1 (EPA), and the New Hampshire Office of Energy and Planning (NHOEP)—may also participate in these two hearings.
Additional public hearings will be conducted by the DOE and the cooperating agencies to receive oral and written comments on the Draft EIS at the following locations and times:
Waterville: Wednesday, March 9, 2016, 5:00 p.m.
Whitefield: Friday, March 11, 2016, 5:00 p.m.
While we do not yet know the format of the joint hearings, it is likely they will include an introduction to the various permitting processes in play, and the opportunity for public comment, both oral and written on the DEIS and the NPT application to the SEC. Finally, a reminder that the deadline for written comments on the DEIS to DOE is April 4th, 2016.
In addition to the joint hearings it will be holding with DOE, the SEC has announced three additional hearings, in accordance with their statutory requirement to hold a public information session in each county where the proposed facility will be located. The three additional SEC hearings are as follows:
Meredith: Tuesday, March 1, 2016 at 5:00 p.m.
Plymouth: Monday, March 14, 2016 at 5:00 p.m.
Deerfield: Wenesday, March 16, 2016 at 5:00 p.m.
According to the SEC hearing notice, these public information sessions will include:
"...representatives of state agencies that have permitting or other regulatory authority over the subject matter and shall be in lieu of all hearings otherwise required by the state agencies. The public hearing will also provide the public with information on the proposed project and an opportunity for the public to submit oral and written comments and to ask questions."
We encourage you to attend these hearings to tell these important permitting officials why you oppose Northern Pass as proposed.
What’s next at the Department of Energy?
As announced previously, the Department of Energy (DOE) has delayed the public comment deadline on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) to April 4th, 2016. Prior to that deadline, likely in March, the DOE will hold public on the DEIS hearings in various locations to receive public comment on the revised document. As soon as those hearings are scheduled we will post that information here as well.
The proposed Northern Pass Transmission project is now under review by both the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the NH Site Evaluation Committee (SEC). While the current proposal would bury 60 miles, with today’s burial technology it is unnecessary to build over 1,100 new steel transmission towers up to 160 tall across the rest of its 130-mile length.
The U.S. Department of Energy has delayed the comment period on the draft Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed Northern Pass Transmission Project. Comments are now due on April 4, 2016, and new dates for public hearings have yet to be announced.
On December 7, the NH SEC initiated the State’s one-year review process with a decision that the Northern Pass application to the SEC is complete. The process ahead will include opportunities for public comment, hearings, and more.
Please stay tuned to these pages for more updates and information about hearings and other opportunities for public participation in these critical permitting processes.
Department of Energy issues Supplement to Draft Environmental Impact Statement; Announces Public Hearings and Comment DeadlineOn November 12th, 2015, the Department of Energy (DOE) issued a supplement to the draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) which studies the "preferred route" announced by Northern Pass in August. The supplement was requested by AMC and colleague organizations to ensure that the DEIS includes an analysis of the new route prior to public comment on the DEIS. Now that the supplement is available, DOE will be announcing public hearings in New Hampshire in January, and a deadline for written comments.
Northern Pass files application with New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee
On October 19th, 2015, Northern Pass filed its application with the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee (SEC) seeking certification to build the project along the proposed route which includes 60 miles of burial, including 52 miles around the White Mountain National Forest. Northern Pass needs three permits to proceed with the project: a Presidential Permit from the Department of State because it because it crosses an international boundary (this is the permit process being run by the Department of Energy (DOE)), a Special Use Permit from the White Mountain National Forest (even though they now propose to bury the line around most of the White Mountain National Forest, there is still a small section where the above-ground line would use an existing right of way on the Forest), and approval from the SEC - without which, they cannot build it, even if they receive the other two permits. So the SEC permitting process is where the buck stops.
When and if the SEC deems the Northern Pass application complete (they have 60 days to do so), AMC will petition to intervene in the SEC adjudicatory permitting process. Run like a judicial court trial, the process involves pre-filed testimony, expert witnesses and cross examination, discovery and more. It is likely to last at least a year. Members of the public may also request intervenor status, or may participate by simply filing testimony for the record. Stay tuned to these pages for more updates on the SEC and the DOE processes and opportunities to voice your opinion.
N.H. Conservation Groups Applaud DOE Decision on Supplemental DEIS for Northern Pass
In order to provide the public ample opportunity to evaluate and comment on the to be released supplemental DEIS, DOE has reset the public comments period on the Draft EIS to December 31, 2015, and postponed scheduled public hearings from the week of October 5 to a date yet to be determined but before the end of the revised public comment period. However, Northern Pass has stated that they intend to proceed with an application to the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee (SEC) in October.
AMC, Colleagues Request DOE to Issue Supplement to Northern Pass DEIS
The Appalachian Mountain Club and colleague organizations on September 14, 2015, issued a request to the U.S. Department of Energy for a supplement to the Northern Pass Draft Environmental Impact Statement in light of a recent announcement by Eversource NH and Northern Pass of a new "Preferred Alternative" for the route of the electric transmission line that was not among the alternatives studies in the DEIS. Read more >>
AMC calls for full burial of electric line in comments on Northern Pass proposal at info sessions
AMC representatives submitted AMC’s comments on the proposed Northern Pass proposal at public information sessions held in New Hampshire in September 2015 as part of the Site Evaluation Committee review process. Comments are below.
To: Eversource Energy and Northern Pass Transmission
The Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) is the oldest conservation and recreation organization in the country, with more than 100,000 members, supporters, and advocates from Maine to Washington, D.C., including more than 12,000 here in New Hampshire. Our mission is to “promote the protection, enjoyment, and understanding of the mountains, forests, waters, and trails of the Appalachian region.” We believe that these resources have intrinsic worth, and that successful conservation depends on active engagement with the outdoors.
AMC’s 139-year history is punctuated by battles to protect the places people love. From our advocacy for passage of the 1911 Weeks Act which created the eastern national forest system and conserved the White Mountains, to protecting Franconia Notch and its state park from the intrusion of a multi-lane interstate highway in the 1970s, and, more recently, to the protection of priority resources in the Northern Forest and Great North Woods of New Hampshire, AMC has played a critical role in maintaining the character of New Hampshire and ensuring that our natural and recreational resources will be available for the enjoyment of generations to come. Open spaces--without the permanent scars of industrial-scale development--are a diminishing and scarce resource of high public value that AMC will fight to protect…. Read more >>
Northern Pass to Bury 52-Mile Segment of Transmission Line; Public Information Sessions start September 2
In late August 2015, Eversource officials announced an amended plan for the proposed Northern Pass project that includes burial of 52 additional miles of the controversial 187-mile-long transmission line.
AMC members, our conservation partner organizations, and the many New Hampshire citizens who have steadfastly opposed the project as proposed, should take some credit for what is in fact a quite dramatic shift on the part of Northern Pass. For years the company has claimed that burial of the line was technically impossible and prohibitively costly. But other projects in the region have determined that full burial is economically feasible. So while we are glad to see this additional 52 miles of the project buried, the question remains: Why not all of it?
Under the new plan, the line would be buried along state road rights of way from Bethlehem to Ashland, N.H. The new buried segment would reduce visual impacts on the White Mountain National Forest and sections of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. The company also announced plans to lower tower heights in some of the remaining sections with overhead lines.
We are still reviewing the implications of this recent announcement by Eversource, and there remain many issues of concern, such as the impacts on thousands of New Hampshire residents who would still be affected by overhead lines under this latest proposal. While progress appears to have been made on addressing the visual impacts to the central part of the state, the south and north remain highly impacted.
In its DEIS, the Department of Energy’s alternatives analysis provides strong evidence that the overhead transmission line proposed by Northern Pass or just partial burial in the vicinity of the White Mountain National Forest would cause considerable environmental and scenic damage compared to total burial of the project.
Furthermore, while Northern Pass has promoted its proposed overhead transmission line as a project that would provide jobs in the region, the DEIS provides clear evidence that full burial of the line would provide almost twice as many jobs, a much smaller impact on property values, and more long-lasting economic benefits to the region than overhead transmission lines or partial burial.
Northern Pass and Eversource are set to file applications with the state’s Site Evaluation Committee. As required by state statute, before submitting their application, they must schedule public information sessions in each county in which the project will be located.
AMC Offers Initial Comments on Northern Pass DEIS
After more than four and a half years, the Northern Pass Transmission (NPT) project has yet to receive any of the three permits it needs to proceed. But latest intelligence has it that the Department of Energy (DOE) will be releasing the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) later this summer, triggering a series of public hearings as well as a written comment period. The DEIS, likely weighing in at more than 2,000 pages, analyzes both the route of the project as proposed by NPT as well as 24 alternatives. In addition, NPT has said that once the DEIS was made public, they would start the process to apply to the NH Site Evaluation Committee (SEC), the second of the three permits required to build the project. In addition to the Presidential Permit required because the project crosses an international boundary, the federal permitting process also includes the need for the White Mountain National Forest (WMNF), following its analysis of data co-developed as part of the DOE's review, to issue a special use permit. The proposed project would cut through the western part of the WMNF.
The NH SEC process for reviewing and certifying the siting of energy projects is complex and adjudicatory, meaning it is run like a trial, with multiple lawyers representing competing interests, testimony by expert witnesses, cross examination, and more. Two years ago AMC along with colleague organizations like CLF, SPNHF, and TNC, worked with legislators to get important changes made to both the structure of the SEC itself, and to the rules under which it will consider applications. While the new SEC structure is in place - the Committee is now composed of nine members, including for the first time two public members - the new rules are not yet finalized. Given that the initial draft of these rules left much to be desired, AMC continues to work to improve them, and will be participating in technical sessions and more at the SEC over the coming months to ensure that the SEC will have clear standards for evaluating proposed energy projects. The rules must be finalized by November 1st, 2015, and will be applied to any pending project applications at the SEC as long as hearings have not yet commenced.
Keep an eye out for email action alerts, and stay tuned to this web page, for further information about the next opportunity to weigh in against the project as proposed.
AMC voices Northern Pass opposition to New England governors
Appalachian Mountain Club Vice-President for Conservation Susan Arnold on July 9, 2014, sent letters to New England governors expressing AMC’s opposition to the proposed Northern Pass electric transmission line, and asked the rest of New England’s heads of state to stand with New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan, who has publicly stated her opposition to the project as proposed.
The letters were sent in anticipation of the 38th Annual Conference of New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers, to be hosted by Governor Hassan at Bretton Woods, N.H., July 13-15.
“We in New England deserve better than Northern Pass, and most especially New Hampshire deserves better. We will not trade away the majestic beauty of New Hampshire. We will insist on smart, modern, and well-planned energy projects that protect our invaluable natural and scenic resources, not compromise them,” Arnold wrote, in part.
Similar letters were sent to the governors of Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Maine, and Vermont. Read the letter to Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick here and learn more about Northern Pass here.Appalachian Trail: Impact of the Northern Pass
The Appalachian Mountain Club continues to oppose the Northern Pass electric transmission line as proposed for several reasons. AMC is especially concerned about how the project would compromise public resources and adversely impact places of regional and national significance, including the White Mountain National Forest and the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. Watch this short video to see how Northern Pass could change your hiking experience.See Northern Pass Through a Child's Eyes
The Appalachian Mountain Club is opposed to the Northern Pass proposal to erect 1,500 new electrical transmission towers through 185 miles of some of New Hampshire's most environmentally sensitive and scenic mountains, ridges, valleys, farms and forests. If this unnecessary and destructive project is approved, the children of today will be living with its consequences for their entire lives.
Through a new partnership with the Conservation Media Group (CMG), a non-profit group of filmmakers and conservationists, we'll be collaborating with our partners and distributing a range of videos to AMC supporters and New Hampshire residents.
How can you do your part? Take a few moments to hear from Tucker on the implications of the Northern Pass proposal from a 7-year-old's perspective. Then sign the petition asking Governor Hassan to take a stronger stand in opposition to Northern Pass. Tell her, "if Northern Pass does not agree to bury power lines, it should be stopped.”
AMC Releases Video Depicting Visual Impact of Northern Pass Planned Route
The area up to a half of a mile out on either side of the transmission line is shown, including the location and heights of new towers and existing ones that would be enlarged or moved. View the video >>
In late June 2013 after two years of delay, Northern Pass finally announced its preferred route for the northernmost 74 miles of its proposed 186-mile transmission line corridor. While Northern Pass has tried to promote this as a "new" and "better" route in a massive media campaign across New Hampshire, in fact, it is neither. The fundamental problems with the route in its entirety remain, as the project will still adversely impact the White Mountain National Forest, Appalachian National Scenic Trail, Franconia Notch State Park, and more. AMC will continue to work with partners to raise concerns about the project, and will be performing a new visual impact analysis to take into account the more detailed information about tower heights and placement Northern Pass has included in its amended application to the Department of Energy.Please keep an eye on this space as well for information about public comment opportunities, or join our Conservation Action Network to receive regular updates on Northern Pass.