The U.S. Department of Energy has been holding a series of public forums this week, called scoping meetings, as part of Northern Pass’ federal permitting process. Two meetings have already been held and the two remaining scoping meetings will be held tonight in Whitefield and tomorrow in Colebrook. These meetings are an important step for the project, but they are also just part of a long process of careful review and scrutiny Northern Pass must undergo before gaining approval.
In October 2010, Northern Pass filed its initial application for a Presidential Permit, which will allow Northern Pass to build a transmission line for the import of Québec hydropower across the Canadian border into the United States. Amendments to the application have been made since then, including one that outlines the new proposed Northern Pass route announced in June.
The DOE will conduct two evaluations, one on environmental impact and another on Northern Pass’ impact on energy reliability. For the Northern Pass, this will include a full Environmental Impact Statement as required by the National Environmental Policy Act. The scoping meetings are focused on gathering information from the public, which will then be used to determine which issues should be studied as the DOE develops its Environmental Impact Statement, and ultimately whether to grant the permit.
The project also submitted an application for a Special Use Permit, which requires specific review of the portion of the proposed line that would travel along an existing 60-year-old utility corridor within the White Mountain National Forest.
Once the environmental analysis and evaluation of the electric reliability criteria is completed, the DOE must obtain a favorable recommendation from the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense before a permit may be issued.
As the Presidential permit process continues, Northern Pass will undergo another rigorous review before the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee. This group of state officials is tasked with ensuring that Northern Pass is in the public’s best interest and that it is designed, built and operated in a manner that will protect and preserve New Hampshire’s high quality of life.
Both the state and federal permitting reviews are well-established methods designed by law to extensively examine new power generation and transmission projects. We hope to see a large number of people participate in the scoping meetings and are eager to keep the conversation going about the benefits Northern Pass will bring New Hampshire.