Northern Pass transmission line faces public hearings

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A proposed high-voltage transmission line across the U.S.-Canada border in northern New Hampshire faces a series of public hearings this month.  The Northern Pass transmission line would provide an additional tie between Hydro-Quebec's electric grid and the New England grid, and would expand U.S. imports of electricity from Canada.

The project is proposed by Northern Pass Transmission LLC, an entity jointly owned by NU Transmission Ventures, Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Northeast Utilities, a publicly held public utility holding company, and NSTAR Transmission Ventures, Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of NSTAR, a publicly held public utility holding company.

The project includes a high-voltage direct current or HVDC transmission line capable of transmitting up to 1,200 megawatts of power from Canada to the U.S. or from the U.S. to Canada.  45 miles of line would connect the northern HVDC converter terminal in Qu├ębec to the U.S.-Canada border into New Hampshire.  The line would extend south from the international border approximately 140 miles to an HVDC converter terminal that would be constructed in the city of Franklin, NH. 

Federal law governs the import and export of electricity.  To construct, operate, maintain, or connect an electric transmission facility crossing the borders of the United States, Northern Pass must first obtain a Presidential permit issued by the U.S. Department of Energy.  Under the National Environmental Policy Act, this approval requires the Department of Energy to consider the environmental impacts of granting the permit.

Since its unveiling in 2011, the Northern Pass project has provoked controversy.  The public has voiced concerns over the environmental and economic impacts of large-scale Canadian hydropower, the risk of private property being seized by the developer through eminent domain, and a route through New Hampshire's White Mountain National Forest and nearby mountains and woodlands.  In response, Northern Pass retooled its route, triggering a need to revise the project's environmental impact statement.  As part of that process, the Department of Energy has scheduled four additional scoping meetings in New Hampshire:
  • Concord, NH, Grappone Conference Center, 70 Constitution Avenue, Monday, September 23, 2013, 6-9 p.m.;
  • Plymouth, NH, Plymouth State University, Silver Center for the Arts, Hanaway Theater, 17 High Street, Tuesday, September 24, 2013, 5-8 p.m.;
  • Whitefield, NH, Mountain View Grand Resort; Spa, Presidential Room, 101 Mountain View Road, Wednesday, September 25, 2013, 5-8 p.m.; and
  • West Stewartstown, NH, The Outback Pub at The Spa Restaurant, 869 Washington Street, Thursday, September 26, 2013, 5-8 p.m.
Thousands of stakeholders attended the first round of scoping meetings in 2011, overwhelmingly expressing concerns about the project and its route.  While Northern Pass has made some efforts to address and accommodate these concerns, many - like New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan - continue to express concerns about the project's potential impacts on the White Mountain National Forest, as well as on New Hampshire's economy, environment, natural resources, communities and people.  This month's events may draw similar attendance to those in 2011 - the New Hampshire Congressional delegation has asked the U.S. Department of Energy to move the West Stewartstown meeting to Colebrook to accomodate more seating.  Public testimony at this month's scoping sessions will shape the Department of Energy's environmental review process, and may affect whether and how the line is eventually developed.

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