Northern Pass had a landmark year in 2016, reaching a number of milestones key to the project’s approval. The Department of Energy (DOE) received public comments and held a series of public hearings throughout New Hampshire. At the state level, the NH Site Evaluation Committee (SEC) took comments from the public, held a number of public hearings, and advanced the process through Technical Sessions and decisions on motions.
Looking ahead to 2017, the SEC will hold adjudicative hearings in the spring, and is expected to make a final decision on the project no later than September 30. The DOE is expected to release its final Environmental Impact Statement sometime next year, as well.
Below is a recap of 2016 milestones to highlight how far the project has come this year. We look forward to 2017, with Northern Pass on track to complete all permitting processes.
The DOE held public hearings throughout the state in March to gather input on its draft Environmental Impact Statement on Northern Pass.
The SEC held 12 public information sessions and public hearings on Northern Pass throughout the state and in communities along the route from January through June. Northern Pass also organized a series of bus tours of the route for the SEC and interveners in coordination with these hearings.
The discovery phase of the state permitting process began in April, requiring Northern Pass to provide documents to the Counsel for the Public and the interveners to the Northern Pass SEC docket. This process continued into August and concluded with Northern Pass staff providing more than 1,250 data responses.
In the fall, the SEC began its first round of Technical Sessions, which provided an informal opportunity for the parties involved in the Northern Pass state review process to ask questions of project experts. There were 21 session held, covering a wide range of topics related to the project, including construction, project benefits, aesthetics, and economic and environmental impact.
Northern Pass secured a key regulatory approval in July when ISO New England officially determined that the clean energy project can reliably interconnect with the regional electric grid. By approving the project’s I.3.9 application, ISO New England determined Northern Pass will not have a significant, adverse effect on the reliability or operating characteristics of the regional grid and its participants.
The New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission (NHPUC) announced in October that Northern Pass has the technical, managerial, and financial expertise to operate as a public utility once the project is fully permitted, and that it is in the public good for the project to do so. The agreement includes Northern Pass’ commitment to provide $20 million ($2 million a year for 10 years) for programs or initiatives approved by the NHPUC that advance clean energy innovation, community betterment, and economic development in New Hampshire, including energy efficiency programs.
In the Community
Business leaders from across the state representing 50 companies announced their support for Northern Pass in March. In a joint statement to the Site Evaluation Committee, the diverse group of New Hampshire businesses, including some of the state’s largest employers, urged elected officials to join them in support of the project.
The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) announced eight conservation, restoration and research grants in August totaling nearly $1 million to restore New Hampshire’s forest and freshwater habitat. The grants were funded through Partners for New Hampshire’s Fish and Wildlife, a partnership between Northern Pass, Eversource and NFWF. Collectively, these projects will open 175 miles of streams for Eastern Brook Trout, improve habitat for New England cottontail, American woodcock, and golden-winged warblers on 852 acres of forestland, and reduce polluted runoff from entering streams, including 47 tons of sediment and 41 tons of phosphorus.
Roger’s Campground in Lancaster unveiled the North Country’s first electric vehicle charging station in May, made possible through funding from Northern Pass and the Forward NH Plan.
In July, Lancaster became the first North Country town to install energy-efficient LED street lights, reducing energy consumption by 60 percent. Switching from conventional to LED street lights was funded by the Forward NH Plan.
Emergency responders saw an improvement to their radio communications system in eight communities in northern New Hampshire and Vermont this summer thanks to the installation of a new emergency radio antenna. The antenna, which was funded by Northern Pass, enables police to communicate via radio in areas where radio signal was previously unavailable.
Project Work and Construction
In April, Northern Pass announced the major contractors and material suppliers who will execute the engineering, design and construction of the Northern Pass transmission line once the project receives state and federal permits. Later that month, Northern Pass contractors began field work along the proposed route that continued through the rest of the year. Geotechnical work included soil boring tests along the proposed route to log soil characteristics, and archeological field work included shovel test sampling for historical artifacts, as is required under the National Historic Preservation Act, Section 106 process and by the SEC.
Other Key Decisions
The New Hampshire Superior Court ruled in favor of Northern Pass in May and unequivocally dismissed claims by the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests that use of public highways was subject to the Forest Society’s approval.
In June, Eversource and Hydro-Québec reached a significant agreement that ensures Eversource customers in New Hampshire will receive a substantial supply of clean energy from the Northern Pass hydroelectric transmission project. The power purchase agreement, or PPA, is expected to deliver additional benefits that, when combined with the lowering of market power prices, bring the total estimated energy cost savings for New Hampshire customers to more than $1 billion.