U.S. DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY ISSUES
Northern Pass Presidential Permit
On November 16, Northern Pass reached its most significant milestone yet. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) issued a Record of Decision (ROD) and approved the Presidential Permit for the Northern Pass that will allow the project to construct transmission facilities at the U.S./Canada border in Pittsburg. This approval is the culmination of a thorough review of the project that involved numerous federal agencies, extensive public involvement, and detailed consideration of approximately a dozen different alternatives.
“We are pleased to see the DOE permitting process for Northern Pass draw to a close, and appreciate the years of diligent work done by the federal agencies in reaching this critical project milestone,” said Eversource New Hampshire President Bill Quinlan. “With the New Hampshire and Canadian permitting processes also nearing completion, and considering we have all major contractor, equipment and labor agreements in place, Northern Pass is on track to begin construction by mid-2018. This is good news for customers, and for the broad and diverse group of New Hampshire stakeholders who support this project for the many benefits it will bring to the state and the region.”
In approving the Presidential Permit for Northern Pass, DOE found that the permit was in the public interest and that the project would have no adverse impacts on reliability of the U.S. electric power system, particularly in New England. As required, DOE also obtained favorable recommendations from the U.S. Departments of State and Defense. The extensive review of Northern Pass was led by DOE and involved the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Forest Service — White Mountain National Forest, the New England District of the Army Corps of Engineers and the New Hampshire Office of Energy Planning as cooperating agencies. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also participated in the review of potential impacts on threatened and endangered species.
The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) is expected to issue a separate final ROD soon in response to the project’s application for a special use permit to allow burial of the transmission line through the White Mountain National Forest. In a draft ROD issued in September, the USFS proposed to approve Northern Pass’ application, concluding that the short-term construction impacts of the project are “more than outweighed by the benefits of bringing additional hydropower to the New England grid.”
NORTHERN PASS MILESTONES AND LOOKING AHEAD
Before the Record of Decision and Presidential Permit from the DOE, Northern Pass has already received a number of other key approvals.
■ The staff of the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission (NH PUC), the New Hampshire Office of the Consumer Advocate, Eversource, and Northern Pass reached a settlement in November that will enable Northern Pass to lease transmission rights-of-way from Eversource
■ The U.S. Forest Service released its draft Record of Decision recommending that the agency issue a special use permit allowing Northern Pass to bury approximately 11 miles of transmission lines in areas along existing roads through the White Mountain National Forest (WMNF)
■ The DOE finalized a Programmatic Agreement regarding Northern Pass that prescribes the steps necessary to complete the federal and state agency review of historic and archeological resources, including addressing any adverse effect
■ The DOE issued the Final Environmental Impact Statement for Northern Pass, concluding that the proposed route is the “preferred alternative,” that the project provides substantial benefits, and will result in minimal impacts
■ Eversource, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Quanta Services, Inc., and ABB Inc. finalized a comprehensive Project Labor Agreement
In the coming months, Northern Pass will continue the state permitting process before the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee (SEC). Looking ahead to the end of 2017 and into 2018, Northern Pass anticipates:
■ Testimony before the SEC will conclude in December for approximately 70 hearing days on Northern Pass
■ The SEC will begin deliberations on Northern Pass in January
■ The U.S. Forest Service will issue its final Record of Decision and Special Use Permit in early 2018, allowing Northern Pass to bury its transmission line in the WMNF
THE CONSTRUCTION PHASE:
Getting Feedback from Businesses
Representatives from Northern Pass are reaching out to businesses along the route, asking for their input on how the project can minimize impact during the construction process. Northern Pass will not begin construction until all necessary approvals are received; however, the project has begun these discussions so we are aware of concerns early in the process and can prepare to address them.
In October, Northern Pass sent more than 300 letters to business owners located along the proposed project route. Since then, representatives have been meeting with businesses and are compiling information about their unique needs, such as access points, hours of service, and delivery times.
Safety is our number one priority
Construction will be performed in a manner that ensures the safety of the public and the workers, and will not interfere with the access and egress of emergency vehicles (police, fire, ambulance, EMS, etc.). Communications and planning with local communities is important to achieving this goal, which is why we are currently consulting with towns along the route and allowing their first responders direct input in the development of emergency response plans.
Business and property owners will always have access to and from their driveways, as will emergency vehicles. We will work with each business and property owner along the route to maintain continued access.
Communication is key to minimizing impacts. We will continue to meet with municipal officials, businesses, homeowners and other affected stakeholders before and during construction to address any concerns and answer questions. We want to ensure that construction is performed in a way that is as non-intrusive as possible and follows best management practices.
WE VALUE YOUR INPUT
We have hired Concord-based Louis Karno & Company to survey businesses along portions of the route in Concord, Franconia and Plymouth as a way to get feedback from businesses owners from an independent source. Thirty interviews were completed this summer and an additional 30 interviews are now underway. Based on the results received thus far, the project will work with businesses to:
■ Ensure safety of pedestrians
■ Maintain business visibility so people know they are open for business
■ Manage traffic and put up signage important to businesses
■ Ensure that customers and delivery services have access to each business
■ Provide an agreed upon plan if special parking arrangements are needed
■ Minimize noise, dust and dirt piles
■ Ensure safe and efficient entry and exit to and from day care centers and schools affected by construction