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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.
AMC’s Opposition to Northern Pass
- Brief to the New Hampshire Supreme Court of AMC, Ammonoosuc Conservation Trust, Conservation Law Foundation (March 2019)
- High Tension, Hard Pass: AMC Commends Unanimous Rejection of Northern Pass Transmission Project by NH SEC (February 2, 2018)
- AMC Denounces Selection of Northern Pass Transmission Project in Massachusetts RFP (January 25, 2018)
- Final Deliberations on Northern Pass Scheduled by NH Site Evaluation Committee (January 22, 2018)
- Post Hearing Memo to the NH Site Evaluation Committee from ACT, AMC, and CLF (January 12, 2018)
- AMC Responds to Northern Pass Federal Permit (November 17, 2017)
- AMC submits written testimony to the NH Site Evaluation Committee: Kimball and Garland (PDF); Publicover (PDF); and Thayer (PDF). (December 30, 2016)
- Southern New England States Reject Northern Pass (October 31, 2016)
- AMC submits comments to DOE on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (PDF) (April 4, 2016)
- N.H. Conservation Groups Applaud DOE Decision on Supplemental DEIS for Northern Pass (September 25, 2015)
- AMC, Colleagues Issue Request for Supplement to Northern Pass DEIS (PDF, 180 kb) (September 14, 2015)
- AMC Offers Initial Comments on Northern Pass DEIS (July 23, 2015)
- Appalachian Mountain Club Files Revised Scoping Comments on Northern Pass EIS (PDF, 380 kb) (November 5, 2013)
- AMC and Others File Joint Scoping Comments on Northern Pass EIS (PDF, 706 kb) (October 30, 2013)
- Appalachian Mountain Club “Flyover” Video Helps Public Understand Visual Impact of Latest Northern Pass Proposal (October 24, 2013)
- Filing with U.S. Department of Energy regarding Northern Pass: ‘Comments of Conservation Law Foundation, Appalachian Mountain Club, and Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests on Amended Application (September 17, 2013)
- AMC submits scoping comment petition with 2,000 signatures (PDF) (December 14, 2012)
- Northern Pass Project Would Impact Resources of Regional and National Significance (September 26, 2012)
- Appalachian Mountain Club’s Northern Pass Public Testimony (March 16, 2011)
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.
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 31 New Hampshire communities, the majority of which have voted to oppose the project.
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 decision date to accept or deny Northern Pass’s application for siting and certification has been extended a 2nd time until March 31, 2018.
The N.H. Supreme Court agreed to hear arguments on an appeal to the decision of the N.H. Site Evaluation Committee in October, 2018. AMC, Ammonoosuc Conservation Trust and the Conservation Law Foundation filed a brief to the Supreme Court in March, 2019.
The N.H. Site Evaluation Committee rejected the application of Northern Pass on February 2, 2018 (a joint Eversource and Hydro Quebec project), choosing not to certify the highly controversial application for a proposed 190 mile high-voltage transmission line through New Hampshire from the Canadian border to Massachusetts, with over 1,800 new or changed towers up to 165 feet tall.
In November, AMC staff expert witnesses were cross-examined by the Applicant, intervening parties, and the Site Evaluation Committee members: Dr. Dave Publicover on ecological impacts of the proposed project, and Dr. Ken Kimball, Larry Garland, and Chris Thayer on visual impacts and viewer expectations of NH’s cultural landscape. AMC is represented by pro bono lawyer William Plouffe, Of Counsel at the Maine law firm of Drummond Woodsum.
Earlier last fall, AMC and many other interveners including the Counsel for the Public’s visual expert, cross-examined and strongly criticized the Applicant’s visual quality assessment and visual impacts relative to the proposed above ground transmission towers for 132 miles of the proposed project, including a new Right of Way for 32 miles in the North Country of NH.
In late January, AMC denounced the selection of Northern Pass by Massachusetts among 46 bids to the the Massachusetts Clean Energy Request for Proposals (RFP), despite its well-known impacts and opposition . Among the other applicants were transmission lines that would be buried for their entire length and a suite of distributed energy projects. Northern Pass has argued that full burial in NH is not financially feasible. But due to increasing opposition in Quebec, on Nov. 20, Hydro Quebec announced it would now bury approximately 11 of the 60 miles of the Northern Pass line in Quebec to spare a conservation area in the Hereford Forest. The NH Site Evaluation Committee is expected to make a verbal decision on whether to permit Northern Pass in late February and a written decision in late March.
AMC’s position remains that the technologies of today allow for economical full burial of HVDC transmission lines, providing a route conducive to burial is selected. As far back as 2010 AMC recommended that Northern Pass consider alternative routes that would accommodate full burial, as such routes do exist in the region. So-called “energy sprawl” threatens the Northeast’s remaining open spaces, and can be avoided. To date AMC has been successful in having the project moved out of the White Mountain National Forest, as was originally proposed.
Opposition to Northern Pass continues to run high in New Hampshire. Eighty per cent of the 31 towns through which Northern Pass would run either approved a warrant article opposed to the project in a town meeting, intervened at the SEC against the project, or both. An unprecedented number of individuals, groups, and towns – approximately 160 – petitioned to intervene at the SEC against the project, leading to months of adjudicative hearings. There is still no conservation/environmental group that supports the project. Thousands of public comments have been filed or made at public meetings, and they run 12:1 against the project. In contrast to this overwhelming record of opposition, Northern Pass’s bid in the MA RFP states there is strong public support for the project.