On Thursday, Oct. 31, 2012, a legislative commission established by Senate Bill 361 (Commission to Study the Feasibility of Establishing Energy Infrastructure Corridors within the Existing Transportation Rights of Way) voted 10-0 to endorse a draft report proposed by the NH State Department of Transportation (NHDOT). The NHDOT version of the report represents a vast improvement over the original draft. The NHDOT version omits controversial language from the original draft that drew criticism from State officials and members of the business community, who warned of the potential for higher electricity prices and government overreach.
The Commission opened last week’s meeting by discussing letters from the Manchester Chamber of Commerce and a representative of Northern Pass containing scathing reviews of the original draft report.
Numerous members of the Commission then offered their own criticisms of the report. Specifically, members rejected the following recommendations:
- A one-year moratorium on the development of new transmission project: The purpose of this provision was to prevent private development on privately owned property. As the Manchester Chamber of Commerce explained in its letter to the Commission, a moratorium would, “freeze private investment in our state and stall [development] at a time when this investment is seen as critical to our economy, future economic expansion and lower electric costs.”
- A mandate that all merchant transmission lines be constructed underground: The Commission’s own record makes the case against a mandate. The NH Dept. of Administrative Services, in a letter to Commission members, stated, “There is no question that underground lines are expensive. DAS believes it should be an option but not mandated. Companies should evaluate on a project by project basis to consider monetary costs as well as social, environmental, and health related costs.” The Department of Environmental Services, in its own letter to the Commission, stressed that the Commission, “should resist being prescriptive in its recommendations…”
- A new pre-application process to precede the Site Evaluation Committee (SEC) process:Members of the Commission (some of whom sit on the SEC) rejected this attempt to add another layer of bureaucracy to what is already a robust and costly permitting process at both the state and federal levels. The Manchester Chamber rightly points out that this provision would, “increase bureaucracy and costs, and drive energy development to other states.”
Northern Pass (NPT) appreciates that the Commission strongly rejected the report recommendations listed above. As several members pointed out, those recommendations were beyond the scope of the Commission and threatened broader and costly consequences for New Hampshire consumers and businesses. We support the effort by the Commission to identify potentially viable corridor options for future energy projects. NPT joins state officials and members of the business community in urging the Commission to continue to respect private property rights and avoid overreaching government provisions that will increase bureaucracy and inevitably result in higher electricity costs for New Hampshire citizens.