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 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 latest

The New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee’s (SEC) decision date to accept or deny Northern Pass's application for siting and certification has now been extended a 2nd time until March 31, 2018.  A variety of factors, including misinformation and missing Application information, has extended the cross-examination phase of the Applicant’s expert witnesses, meaning that intervener witnesses have yet to take the stand.  Four AMC staff have filed testimony to the SEC 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), and are expected to be called to take the stand in the future. 

Northern Pass (a joint Eversource and Hydro Quebec entity) has also bid into the Massachusetts Clean Energy Request for Proposals (see below). Winning the Massachusetts bid has been described by the Applicant as a key means to finance this project.  Hydro-Quebec also bid into the Massachusetts Request for Proposals (RFP) with other parties in addition to its bid with Northern Pass partner Eversource. Two of Hydro-Quebec’s competing co-bids are with the New England Clean Power Link, a fully buried proposal in Vermont which is now fully permitted at both the state and federal level. Northern Pass has argued that full burial in NH is financially not feasible. Winning bids in the MA RFP process will be selected in late January 2018. 

Finally, the Department of Energy recently issued its Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the needed Presidential Permit to allow the international boundary crossing.  The FEIS moves the Presidential Permit process one step closer to final approval, and AMC has filed objections to the FEIS which supports the Applicant’s preferred alternative route.  In conjunction with the FEIS, the White Mountain National Forest (WMNF) recently issued its draft Record of Decision for a Special Use Permit (SUP) for Northern Pass to cross WMNF land.  The WMNF decision stated it would issue the SUP as 52 miles would now be buried under state roads in the WMNF.  The WMNF indicated it would have rejected the original proposal in which the project would have used large steel lattice towers cutting through miles of the Forest.  AMC objected strongly to the original overhead proposal in the WMNF.  AMC, and many other interveners including the Counsel for Public’s visual expert, have cross-examined and strongly criticized the Applicant’s visual quality assessment of the visual impacts created by the remaining 132 miles of overhead transmission included in the proposed project. 

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.