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The Northern Pass

Northern Pass, a corporate partnership among power companies Northeast Utilities, PSNH and Hydro-Quebec, proposes to construct 1100 towers on 180 miles of high-voltage transmission line from Canada through New Hampshire. When the Northern Pass project was presented to the public, the Forest Society listened to its proponents and carefully considered their arguments. As an organization that has modeled the use of renewable energy systems at our headquarters in Concord and advocated energy conservation and sustainable energy policies, we are aware of the benefits of the use of renewable hydropower. We have supported policies to promote the use of New Hampshire's own renewable energy sources, especially those that use sustainable forestry to generate energy from biomass.

However, we concluded that the downsides of Northern Pass far outweigh any potential positives. We strongly oppose Northern Pass as proposed. To learn more about why we oppose Northern Pass, and the permitting process it will require, click here.


To make your voice heard and stay up-to-date, register with Trees NOT Towers.

To contribute financially, click here.

Click here to read the Forest Society's scoping comments submitted on June 14 to the US Department of Energy on the Northern Pass proposal.

For a list of talking points that outline the Forest Society's position on Northern Pass, click here.

Click here to read Jane Difley's remarks about Northern Pass on March 14, or click here to listen to a recording of Difley's comments courtesy of WTPL 107.7 The Pulse.

Click here to see an outline of the permitting process, including a map showing the proposed project route.

For a map of the proposed Northern Pass corridor, click here.


The following items are extracted from the No Northern Pass NH blog. Visit the blog to view comments or leave your own.


Federal Report: Significant Advantages to Burying Northern Pass Type Transmission Lines

Forest Society, 8/11/2014

Federal Report: Significant Advantages to Burying Transmission Lines

By Chris Jensen, NHPR

A new federal report about an electric transmission project in New York says there are a lot of good reasons to bury such lines and that is likely to give opponents of Northern Pass ammunition in their campaign to get the lines underground...

The U.S. Department of Energy analyzed the impact of the proposed Champlain Hudson Power Express, which hopes to carry power from Canada to the New York metro area.

If given final approval by the DOE the route would stretch 336 miles. For about 141 miles the lines would be buried alongside roads or railway lines.

In its final Environmental Impact Statement the DOE concluded burying the lines would make them less vulnerable to storm damage or terrorist attacks. It would also be less disruptive to the environment and reduce maintenance.

“The Champlain Hudson document really confirms that the underground transmission options are economically and technically feasible and in many cases have substantial advantages over the overhead approach that is favored by Northern Pass,” said Christophe Courchesne is an attorney with the Conservation Law Foundation.

But in a statement Northern Pass spokeswoman Lauren Collins said every energy project is “different and these differences influence design and cost.”

She said Northern Pass estimates burying the line along its existing rights-of-way would cost $15 million to $20 million per mile compared to $3 million per mile for overhead lines.

Officials at Champlain Express have estimated the cost of burying their lines alongside those roads and railway lines will be about $5.5 million per mile.

The project pays the railroad a fee for using the right-of-way but there is no charge for running the lines alongside a highway because it is considered a public benefit, said Andrew Rush, a spokesman for the project.  In the Hudson River and under Lake Champlain payments are made to the state.

Northern Pass says it wants to use its own rights-of-way “obtained by working with willing landowners and using existing power line rights-of-way.”

Using state rights-of-way might require payments to New Hampshire.

The Department of Energy is conducting a similar Environmental Impact Statement on the Northern Pass Project. However, the draft EIS is not expected until late this year.

But it is expected to include – as part of its examination of alternatives – a look at burying the Northern Pass lines.

“The contents of the final EIS demonstrate that burial is a real alternative. The thing is that you have to pick the right route,” said Ken Kimball, the director of research  for the Appalachian Mountain Club which opposes the Northern Pass.


Why Burying Transmission Cables is a Viable Alternative

Forest Society, 8/1/2014


By Will Abbott

From the beginning, the main issue the Forest Society has had with Northern Pass has been with how the project proposes to bring electrons to the marketplace.  We are not philosophically opposed to importing electricity from Canada, but we are opposed to the 180-mile scar that the proposed overhead towers would create on New Hampshire landscapes from Pittsburg to Deerfield.
 
If the power is needed, or even desired, we believe there is new technology available that makes it possible for New Hampshire to accommodate Northern Pass in a way that is good for the state, for Quebec and for the utility proposing to build Northern Pass (Northeast Utilities, owner of Public Service Company of New Hampshire).

The new technology involves a buried high-voltage, direct current cable designed to be placed in a trench that dissipates the heat from the cables. By using a trench dug along an existing transportation right of way, like an interstate highway or a continuous railroad right of way where the state already owns the land beneath the right of way, Northern Pass could be built in a way that avoids the adverse visual impacts of overhead lines.  In addition, the state would generate a little extra money for its depleted highway fund by leasing the right of way to the utility.

One company that manufactures this new cable calls its product “HVDC Light.”  The company, a Swiss firm by the name of ABB, Inc., is so attracted to the future of this product that they have recently completed a new $400 million manufacturing facility in North Carolina to manufacture this and other cable products.  A representative from ABB has testified before New Hampshire legislative committees to explain how its product works.  The cable itself costs $2 million a mile, and, based on previous installations, company representatives estimate that trench costs for a previously disturbed corridor are in the range of $3-$4 million a mile.  This makes the total likely cost significantly below the claimed expense of $20 million a mile being made by representatives of Northeast Utilities.

If southern New England states need electrons from Quebec to meet their electric needs, and if they prefer this over building new generating facilities in their own states, it only seems fair that they should pay for the cost of burying Northern Pass through New Hampshire.  Or, at least they should be willing to pay the differential cost between overhead lines and buried lines on existing state-owned rights of way.  The N.H. Department of Transportation has already identified New Hampshire’s  three existing interstate highways (plus Route 101 from Manchester to the Seacoast) as appropriate corridors for such buried facilities to be studied further.  Maybe Hydro-Quebec can partner with the southern New England states to share these added costs. 

The decision to site such an extension-cord facility in New Hampshire remains with the state and its people.   Northeast Utilities and Hydro-Quebec should not be allowed to jam overhead power lines down New Hampshire’s throat -- particularly in a situation like this where the electrons are not needed to keep the lights on.  Northern Pass is being built as a for-profit enterprise to benefit the shareholders of Northeast Utilities and the ratepayers of Quebec.  They are in business to make money (which is not a bad thing) and they have the right to propose a project that makes them more money.  They should not, however, be entitled to make money at the expense of one of New Hampshire’s greatest assets.  They are not entitled to scar the landscapes that are the social and economic fabric of our communities.

If the people behind Northern Pass want to build a project in New Hampshire that has broad public support, they should withdraw the project they have proposed and offer a new project that completely buries the new facility along appropriate state-owned transportation corridors.   Otherwise, the project should be abandoned altogether.


Will Abbott is vice president of Policy and Reservation Stewardship at the Forest Society.

Northern Pass Updates: DOE Releases Preliminary Alternatives Report; a Northern Pass Competitor Files for Presidential Permit; and NU Considers a Line in Vermont

Forest Society, 7/18/2014 (updated 7/31/2014)


Northern Pass opponents have been waiting to learn to what extent the U.S. Dept. of Energy (DOE) listened to the voluminous public comments regarding the need to analyze alternatives to the proposed overhead transmission line, such as burial along transportation corridors. The fear has been that the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) would be completed without serious study of such alternatives.
Prompted by requests from the New Hampshire Congressional Delegation, the DOE released on May 1 a preliminary report outlining the alternatives that will be studied as part of the EIS for the proposed Northern Pass transmission line.
Now that the report is out, the rush is on to understand not only what it says but what it might mean for Northern Pass. The caveat, however, is that this is clearly a preliminary report. As the document itself notes:
This Alternatives Addendum document briefly discusses alternatives that will, as of this time, be included in the draft EIS. However, this ongoing review may generate new information that results in changes or additions to, or reorganization of, the information presented below. DOE will use the information gathered during this process to identify which of the alternatives are reasonable.
In other words, if any one listed alternative is determined to be "unreasonable" by the DOE, it may get short shrift. The report goes on to say:
The range of reasonable alternatives will be analyzed in detail in the draft EIS, including discussion of design specifics and an analysis of potential environmental impacts. DOE also will identify those alternatives that are not reasonable and, in the draft EIS, will briefly discuss the reasons those alternatives were eliminated from detailed study.

The Alternatives Being Analyzed
There are 24 alternatives summarized in the report, including the so-called "Proposed Action" (the largely overhead line that Hydro-Quebec and Northeast Utilities want to build) and the "No Action" alternative (what happens if no line at all is built).
Among the rest are 10 variations on burial of some or all of the line, which suggests that burial options are likely to be analyzed in some detail. Those variations include burying only 10 out of 187 miles to avoid overhead lines through the White Mountain National Forest, to "porpoising" above and below ground, to complete burial either along the proposed right of way or under roadways or rail corridors.
There are a few surprises, such as the possibility of locating the conversion station (the electricity would travel the greatest distance as direct current, or DC, but must be converted to alternating current, or AC, to be accepted into the New England grid) in Deerfield instead of Franklin as proposed by Northern Pass. This possibility has not been part of any significant public discussion to date.
One alternative would apparently consider a terminus other than Deerfield, and thus, as the report states, "Specific alternate locations for the project’s terminus substations were not suggested, but different locations could significantly expand the range of possible routes." Another alternative considers placing the transmission line in an above-ground "tube" or pipeline, while another considers using navigable waterways, such as the Merrimack River. It's unknown to what extent such alternatives will get close scrutiny.

What's Not Among the Alternatives
None of potential alternatives listed in the report contemplate an international border crossing other than the one requested by Hydro-Quebec and Northeast Utilities in Pittsburg, N.H. This is notable for several reasons, not the least of which is that absent eminent domain, all overhead and underground routes that start at that point are blocked by the Forest Society's ownership of the Washburn Family Forest in adjoining Clarksville, including land underneath Route 3. Northern Pass has yet to secure a legally permittable route, and the alternatives being studied by the DOE don't resolve that issue.
The sole Pittsburg starting point is also notable in that the shortest route for power to be delivered from Quebec to power-demand centers in southern New England--especially if buried along roadways such as I-91--would not begin there.
Also missing among the alternatives is any consideration of so-called HVDC Light technology, the kind of buried transmission cable to be used in similar projects in New York (Champlain-Hudson Express and Vermont (New England Clean Power Link).
Rather, it would appear that the DOE for the most part has chosen to study alternatives that start with the project developers' own assumptions--that the line would cross into the U.S. in Pittsburg, N.H., and proceed to Deerfield, N.H., using the limits of old-school transmission technology. This is somewhat less than some stakeholders had hoped for.  Gov. Maggie Hassan in her statement about the report, saw fit to note, "I continue to believe that, with any energy project, New Hampshire deserves the latest technologies in order to protect what we all love about our state... ."

Increased Interest in Vermont
Meanwhile, during a visit to New Hampshire, Vermont's Gov. Peter Shumlin offered to work with Gov. Hassan to look into using Interstate 91 as a potential route for a buried line.
"If anyone can get it done, it’s Governor Hassan, myself and others," he said. "We would love to find solutions to get our southern neighbors the juice they need without destroying our pristine forests."
Two other underground transmission proposals, both from Transmission Developers Inc. (TDI) are proposed for Vermont/New York. The Champlain-Hudson Express, an underground and underwater 330-mile 1,000MW project that would deliver power from Quebec to New York, is well ahead of Northern Pass in the permitting process. And in May, TDI applied for a Presidential Permit for its New England Clean Power Link, another underwater and underground transmission line that would deliver 1000MW of Hydro Quebec power to Ludlow, Vt., where it would connect to the New England grid. TDI projects a 2019 completion date and $1.2 billion price tag for that approximately 150-mile project.

Perhaps, then, it is not surprising that earlier this spring Northeast Utilities fielded their own proposals to connect to the regional grid in Vermont. NU denied that those proposals were meant as a hedge against the stymied Northern Pass project in New Hampshire, but would not say how much electricity would be carried nor what the source of power would be.

Forest Society, 7/7/2014


No Northern Pass Video 3: A Hiker's Perspective

 The unnecessary and unpopular Northern Pass electrical transmission line would cut across New Hampshire for 187 miles from north to south, crossing many hiking trails - including the Appalachian Trail - along the way. 1500 huge new towers with high-voltage lines would rise high above the trees, visible for miles around. 

We've partnered with the Conservation Media Group on a video series that helps shine the light on why the Northern Pass project should not go ahead as currently planned. Please watch the latest video, and - if you haven't already - join us in signing the petition urging opposition to the Northern Pass. New England's governors will meet in New Hampshire on July 15th; tell them before that meeting, "If Northern Pass does not agree to bury power lines, it should be stopped.” 

Over 4000 people have signed the petition to date. Please share this email and ask your friends and family to join you in taking action by adding their own signatures and sending the strongest possible message to the region's policymakers.



Tucker's Turn: The Numbers on Northern Pass

Forest Society, 6/13/2014



Update on Energy Bills HB 569, SB 245 and SB 281

Forest Society, 5/11/2014 (updated 5/12/2014)

The Legislature is considering three important bills regarding energy and the environment this week (the week of May 12):

On Thursday the State Senate votes on HB 569, a bill originally introduced by Representative Larry Rappaport of Colebrook and co-sponsored by Senator Jeff Woodburn of Dalton.  As modified by the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee, and recommended on a 3-2 vote last week by the Committee, the bill says the Site Evaluation Committee “may” presume that overhead transmission lines not needed to keep the lights on will have an unreasonably adverse effect on aesthetics.  The bill also authorizes the NH Department of Transportation to facilitate the option to bury such transmission lines in state owned rights of way.  Please contact your senator and ask him or her to vote “YES” on HB 569 as recommended by the Senate Energy Committee.

On Wednesday the House votes on two important bills already approved by the Senate.  SB 245, introduced by Senator Jeanie Forrester, reforms the Site Evaluation Committee (SEC) by amending RSA 162-H.  As most recently amended by committees in the House, this bill provides the needed changes to the SEC.  If enacted, the bill creates two new public member positions to sit on panels with state agency heads reviewing new energy facility applications, it requires the SEC to make a finding that a proposed project is in the public interest before deciding to award a permit and it provides the SEC with staff and financial resources to do its job.  Please contact your elected representative(s) in the New Hampshire House and ask that they vote “YES” on SB 245 as recommended by the House Finance Committee by a vote of 23-0.

The House will also be voting on Wednesday on SB 281, which provides legislative guidance to the SEC as it develops rules on the siting of wind energy projects.   The bill was tabled in last week’s House session, but is expected to be amended from the floor and voted on this week as well.  In conjunction with SB 245, the guidance for siting criteria provided by SB 281 will help ensure consistency and clarity in the SEC’s evaluation of wind energy project proposals.  Please ask your representative to vote “YES” on SB 281.



Preliminary Alternatives Report Released: What Does It Tell Us?

Forest Society, 5/9/2014 (updated 5/12/2014)

Prompted by requests from the New Hamphire Congressional Delegation, the U.S. Dept. of Energy (DOE) released on May 1 a preliminary report (click here) outlining the alternatives that will be studied as part of the Evironmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the proposed Northern Pass transmission line.

Northern Pass opponents have been waiting to learn to what extent the DOE listened to the voluminous public comments regarding the need to analyze alternatives to the proposed overhead line, such as burial along transportation corridors. The fear has been that the EIS would be completed without serious study of such alternatives.

Now that the report is out, the rush is on to understand not only what it says but what it might mean for Northern Pass. The caveat, however, is that this is clearly a preliminary report. As the document itself notes,

"This Alternatives Addendum document briefly discusses alternatives that will, as of this time, be included in the draft EIS. However, this ongoing review may generate new information that results in changes or additions to, or reorganization of, the information presented below. DOE will use the information gathered during this process to identify which of the alternatives are reasonable."

In other words, if any one listed alternative is determined to be "unreasonable" by the DOE, it may get short shrift. The report goes on to say,

"The range of reasonable alternatives will be analyzed in detail in the draft EIS, including discussion of design specifics and an analysis of potential environmental impacts. DOE also will identify those alternatives that are not reasonable and, in the draft EIS, will briefly discuss the reasons those alternatives were eliminated from detailed study."

The Alternatives Being Analyzed
There are 24 alternatives summarized in the report, including the so-called "Proposed Action" (the largely overhead line that Hydro-Quebec and Northeast Utilities want to build) and the "No Action" alternative (what happens if no line at all is built).

Among the rest are 10 variations on burial of some or all of the line, which suggests that burial options are likely to be analyzed in some detail. Those variations include burying only 10 out of 187 miles to avoid overhead lines through the White Mountain National Forest, to "porpoising" above and below ground, to complete burial either along the proposed right of way or under roadways or rail corridors.

There are a few surprises, such as the possibility of locating the conversion station (the electricity would travel the greatest distance as direct current, or DC, but must be converted to alternating current, or AC, to be accepted into the New England grid) in Deerfield instead of Franklin as proposed by Northern Pass. This possibility has not been part of any significant public discussion to date.

One alternative would apparently consider a terminus other than Deerfield, and thus, as the report states, "Specific alternate locations for the projects terminus substations were not suggested, but different locations could significantly expand the range of possible routes." Another alternative considers placing the transmission line in an above-ground "tube" or pipeline, while another considers using navigable waterways, such as the Merrimack River. It's unknown to what extent such alternatives will get close scrutiny.


What's Not Among the Alternatives
None of potential alternatives listed in the report contemplate an international border crossing other than the one requested by Hydro-Quebec and Northeast Utilities in Pittsburg, N.H. This is notable for several reasons, not the least of which is that absent eminent domain, all overhead and underground routes that start at that point are blocked by the Forest Society's ownership of the Washburn Family Forest in adjoining Clarksville, including land underneath Route 3. Northern Pass has yet to secure a legally permitable route, and the alternatives being studied by the DOE don't resolve that issue.

The sole Pittsburg starting point is also notable in that the shortest route for power to be delivered from Quebec to power-demand centers in southern New England--especially if buried along roadways such as I-91--would not begin there.

Also missing among the alternatives is any consideration of so-called HVDC Light technology, the kind of buried transmission cable to be used in similar projects in New York (Champlain-Hudson Express and Vermont (New England Clean Power Link).

Rather, it would appear that the DOE for the most part has chosen to study alternatives that start with the project developers' own assumptions--that the line would cross into the U.S. in Pittsburg, N.H., and proceed to Deerfield, N.H., using the limits of old-school transmission technology. This is somewhat less than some stakeholders had hoped for.  Gov. Maggie Hassan in her statement about the report, saw fit to note, "I continue to believe that, with any energy project, New Hampshire deserves the latest technologies in order to protect what we all love about our state... ."

Meanwhile, during a visit to New Hampshire, Vermont's Gov. Peter Shumlin offered to work with Gov. Hassan to look into using Interstate 91 as a potential route for a buried line.

"If anyone can get it done it’s Governor Hassan, myself, and others," he said. "We would love to find solutions to get our southern neighbors the juice they need without destroying our pristine forests."

For an additional take on what the report does and does not accomplish, read this from the Conservation Law Foundation's Christophe Courchesne. The Union Leader's coverage can be read here, and the Concord Monitor's story is available here.


Sign the Online Petition to Gov. Hassan

Forest Society, 4/24/2014



In an effort to engage more of New Hampshire's citizens about Northern Pass, we have teamed up with the Appalachian Mountain Club and the Conservation Media Group (CMG), a non-profit group of filmmakers and conservationists. We are collaborating to make sure more people in New Hampshire know what's at stake. We need your help to do that. Please watch Tucker in this first video and join us and CMG to petition 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."

If you would prefer to send your comments to Gov. Hassan directly, her address is:
Governor Maggie Hassan
State House
107 North Main Street
Concord, NH 03301

Update On Energy Bills in the N.H. State Legislature (SB 245, SB 281, SB 569, HB 200)

Forest Society, 4/9/2014

Here's what's going on with SB 245, SB 281, SB 569 and SB 200:


SB 245, the SEC reform bill, passed the Senate on a voice vote and is now before the House Science, Technology and Energy Committee.  April 8 was the first day of ST&E hearings.  Go here for joint testimony from SPNHF, AMC, CLF and TNC.  Please reach out to House members to support SEC reform.

SB 281, which provides the SEC with a policy framework for siting wind energy projects, also passed the Senate on a voice vote, and is now being considered by the House ST&E Committee.  The SEC is already charged with developing administrative rules on wind siting by the end of 2014, but has received little guidance from the legislature on what the rules need to address.  SB 281 provides the SEC with this guidance.  The bill had its initial public hearing before the committee last week. Click here to read joint testimony on SB 281 submitted by the Forest Society and several of our conservation partners.   Please reach out to your House members, especially if they are members of the ST&E Committee, and ask them to support SB 281! 

The two burial bills, HB 569 and SB 200, are both now in the Senate.
HB 569 has been heard by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee; please ask senators to support this bill. You'll find talking points on this blog (scroll down).  

SB 200 sits on the table in the Senate.  It complements HB 569 by creating authority for the NH Department of Transportation to identify and lease state owned transportation corridors for energy infrastructure (like transmission lines and pipelines). You'll find more info on SB 200 by scrolling down in this blog.

Talking Points for SB 281

Forest Society, 3/11/2014

SB 281: Policy Guidance for New Energy Facility Siting Rules

SB 99 enacted last session tasked the SEC with developing and adopting new administrative rules that establish regulatory criteria for the siting of energy facilities in New Hampshire by Jan. 1, 2015.  The goal was for these new criteria to guide the SEC in making the required statutory findings as to whether a proposed facility’s application met the test for regulatory approval.  

Another goal for these new rules was to assure the public, energy facility developers and all stakeholders in the SEC’s decision-making process that SEC decisions would be guided by a common set of decision-making criteria.  


SB 281 provides the SEC with direction on what policy goals should be met with the new administrative rules mandated by SB 99.  It offers eight discrete standards that the new rules should address.  It also authorizes the SEC to provide a property value guarantee to individual landowners when the SEC concludes that the landowner’s real estate value is adversely impacted by the siting of a specific project. 


If you have questions or comments regarding SB 281, please contact Chris Wells at cwells@forestsociety.org or 224-9945.

Read more at the No Northern Pass NH blog.

 

 
 
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