Northern Pass proponents recently voiced their support for the project during two public comment sessions in Concord, hosted by the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee (SEC). Residents and business leaders shared their thoughts on how the project will benefit their community and the need for more reliable and affordable energy. We appreciate all of those who took the time to show their support for Northern Pass. Here are some examples of statements the SEC heard during the recent public comment session:
Steven Binette, owner of Ray’s Electric and GC, Inc. of Berlin, NH:
“Over the last decade, we’ve seen a large decline in commercial and industrial electrical projects and we’ve had to expand into general contracting and excavation. Northern Pass and the Eversource president have reached out to local contractors to keep us updated on this project so we can work on a project this area so desperately needs.”
Meredith Briggs, Deerfield resident:
“I am confident Deerfield will benefit from this project. I believe it will create jobs. I do believe it will create tax revenue. If we work together, we can arrive at a solution we can all live with.”
John Dumais, president and CEO of the New Hampshire Grocers Association:
“Our position has always been to encourage any responsible means to lower electricity costs. The only plausible relief in the near future is Northern Pass.”
Tracy Hatch, Nashua Chamber of Commerce:
“On behalf of 600 plus members of the Chamber, I am here to express strong support for the Northern Pass project. The Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce is made up of large and small businesses…Despite all the surface differences, they all have one common concern: the cost and stable supply of energy…Our economy and our businesses need reliable stable energy.”
Mike Skelton, President of the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce:
“Our support is rooted in the belief of the need to lower the cost of energy in New England and the impact it has on the economy. There is no perfect source of energy. Whether it’s a power plant and transmission line or a solar installation – they all have benefits and they all include potential impacts. The key question is do the benefits ultimately outweigh the potential impacts? Our view after many years is that Northern Pass, the way it has evolved, the answer is yes.”
Anastasia Park, Lee, NH:
“I am an iron worker by trade and I am a journeyman and what I am very tired of doing is traveling to Massachusetts for work. In the four years I’ve been working as an iron worker, I’ve had two jobs in this beautiful state. It kills me. We are losing business to the high cost of electricity in this state. People don’t want to build here because they can’t afford to stay here. The construction jobs are the backbone of the economy. When we build (Northern Pass) here we can spend our money back here.”
The next public comment session held by the SEC will be on Thursday, July 20. Your voice matters in this process and we appreciate all who have spoken publically or have sent a written comment. If you would like to submit a comment to the SEC, send it to:
New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee
Pamela G. Monroe, Administrator
21 South Fruit Street, Suite 10
Concord, NH 03301
Phone: 603-271-2435 Fax: 603-271-3878
Karner blue butterfly (photo: USFWS)
New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee (SEC) hearings on Northern Pass resumed in June, focusing on a wide range of issues related to the project. The SEC also heard comments from the public during two half-days of public hearings, offering residents and business owners another chance to let state officials know their thoughts on the project.
The construction panel resumed on May 31 with testimony about the efforts Northern Pass has made to reach out to communities and businesses along the route to address their concerns, such as traffic management and emergency vehicle access. The construction panel concluded on June 2.
Economic Benefits and Cleaner Air
Julia Frayer, a Managing Director with London Economics, spoke about the benefits Northern Pass is expected to bring to New Hampshire and the region, including 2,600 jobs in New Hampshire at the peak of construction, lowering energy costs in New Hampshire by $62 million annually, and increasing New Hampshire’s gross domestic product (GDP) by $2.2 billion through 2030.
Frayer also spoke about the project’s environmental benefits, particularly the reduction in air pollution and carbon emissions. Hydropower from Northern Pass will help reduce the region’s reliance on natural gas and other fossil fuels, which will in turn lower CO2 emissions by an estimated 3.2 million metric tons.
A panel of five environmental experts spoke about their area of study along the Northern Pass route. Topics covered included the project’s efforts to reduce and mitigate impacts to wetlands, streams, vernal pools, wildlife, and other natural and cultural resources along the route, as well as the efforts Northern Pass made to work with state and federal agencies on these environmental issues.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR NORTHERN PASS
Northern Pass Mitigation Plan Expands on Important Habitat
Northern Pass has worked with the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to identify land that could be part of the Northern Pass mitigation plan and would also provide additional benefits to other conservation and restoration efforts around the state. One such site is a 7-acre parcel in Concord that will protect a portion of the Soucook River shoreline and establish additional protected habitat for the endangered Karner blue butterfly.
This species can be found in the Upper Midwest and Northeast in sandy scrubland such as pine barrens and oak savannahs. The Karner blue butterfly is New Hampshire’s state butterfly, but the only place it is known to live in the state is the pine barrens near the Concord airport. The parcel Northern Pass has allocated for conservation is adjacent to an existing 28-acre conservation easement specifically dedicated to establishing Karner blue butterfly habitat, and will help expand the efforts already underway to preserve this species.
For more information on the Karner blue butterfly conservation easement in Concord and the efforts to protect this species, go to www.wildlife.state.nh.us/merrimack/karnerblue.html.
WORKING WITH COMMUNITIES ALONG THE ROUTE
Northern Pass reached out to the cities and towns along the proposed route earlier this year to discuss concerns they might have regarding the construction of the project. Northern Pass will begin construction of the overhead and underground portions of the line soon after all state and federal approvals have been obtained, including from the SEC.
Some concerns that have already been raised by communities include the project’s hours of operation during construction, impact to traffic and the condition of local roads, as well as maintaining emergency vehicle access. Northern Pass has agreed to work with cities and towns to address their individual concerns, from avoiding work during special town events to taking care to restore roads to their original condition or better.
From these discussions, Northern Pass has executed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with two communities — Franklin and Lancaster — and is currently in talks with a number of other communities about designing their own MOUs. The project hopes to continue discussions as the permitting phase moves forward and to learn more about the needs and concerns of each community along the route.
LOOKING NEXT DOOR: WHAT A PROJECT IN MAINE CAN TELL US ABOUT NORTHERN PASS
The SEC’s review of the Northern Pass includes discussions about the jobs the project will bring to the state. Northern Pass conducted a study that shows 2,600 jobs will be created and we have pledged to hire New Hampshire workers first whenever possible. There will also be a wider economic boost from the project, from workers buying gas and food from businesses along the route to the project relying on local suppliers to provide some of the materials for the project.
To see how a transmission line project can positively impact the local economy, the Maine
Power Reliability Program (MPRP), completed in 2015, is a good example. The $1.4 billion project included power line and substation upgrades in 75 communities, and represents a host of economic benefits.
A wide variety of local businesses benefited from MPRP, beyond those that directly supplied the project. Convenience stores, gas stations, motor inns and hotels, and diners and restaurants saw an increase in business as well. Similarly in New Hampshire, Northern Pass has already hired New Hampshire companies and workers during the permitting stages, will continue to create jobs during construction, and will provide millions of dollars in revenue to local communities along the route.
MPRP also shed some light on how the tourism industry reacts to transmission line projects. According to the Maine Office of Tourism, revenue from tourism has increased in that state every year since 2012, both during and after the construction of MPRP. In fact, Maine set a tourism record in 2015 and again in 2016, with increases in restaurant and lodging revenue seen both on the coast and inland.
MAINE POWER RELIABILITY PROGRAM (MPRP)
The project was also expected to:
The New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has approved a request by Northern Pass to cross public waters and public lands to construct the 192-mile hydroelectric transmission line project. In granting the licenses, the PUC found that the crossings will not interfere with the public’s use of the land and waters affected by the crossings.
The various requests for licenses to cross state waters and lands were submitted as part of the project’s filing before the Site Evaluation Committee (SEC) for approval of a Certificate of Site and Facility.
The project’s proposed route has also undergone review from a number of other state agencies, including the Department of Transportation and the Department of Environmental Services, both of which have recommended approval of the project. More than 80 percent of the route will be built in existing rights-of-way or buried under public roadways.
Recent Project Milestones
During its design phase, Northern Pass sought to avoid and minimize impacts to wetlands along the proposed route whenever possible. However, environmental studies revealed that some wetlands will be impacted from construction and operation of the project. Working with various agencies, and in accordance with state and federal law, Northern Pass has dedicated 1,627 acres of approved land for wetland mitigation – exceeding the state and federal requirements for wetlands mitigation the project must meet.
Northern Pass has worked with the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (DES), and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to identify land that could be part of the Northern Pass mitigation plan and would also provide additional benefits to other conservation and restoration efforts around the state. The mitigation package includes eight conservation sites which are valued for having numerous wetlands, floodplains, streams, vernal pools, or are connected to other conservation lands.
Included in the 1,627 acres of conservation land is a 7-acre parcel in Concord that will be used to establish additional protected habitat for the endangered Karner blue butterfly. Although it is New Hampshire’s state butterfly, the only place where Karner blue butterflies are known to live in the state is the Pine Barrens near the Concord airport. The Northern Pass parcel is located adjacent to an existing 28-acre conservation easement specifically dedicated to establishing Karner blue butterfly habitat, and will help expand the efforts already underway to preserve this species.
Highest Ranked Habitats
Much of the land Northern Pass has dedicated to the mitigation package specifically addresses local and regional conservation goals. They include corridors for lynx, marten and other wildlife, habitats for moose and Northern long-eared bat, deer wintering areas, large forest blocks for forest breeding birds, and a mix of land types from wetlands and early successional forests to mature forests and high-elevation habitat. Six sites, totaling 1,533 acres are located in the North Country and are adjacent to or near other undeveloped land that offer opportunities for hiking, hunting and fishing.
The sites in the mitigation plan stand out for the significant conservation opportunities they present the state. Approximately 700 acres are considered Highest Ranked Habitat, a determination made by New Hampshire Fish and Game. This designation indicates land that contains wildlife habitat in the best relative condition in the state or region, considering the location of key species, the landscape setting, and the impact humans have had on the area.
The following nine parcels will be preserved as part of the Northern Pass Wetland Mitigation Package:
|Hall Stream Road Site||Pittsburg||46.5 acres||Highest Ranked Habitat, with forest and farmland|
|Connecticut River Site||Pittsburg||550 acres||Highest Ranked Habitat with high-quality wetlands|
|Haynes Road Site||Clarksville||153 acres||Highest Ranked Habitat, Deer Wintering Area|
|Wiswell Road Site||Clarksville||211 acres||Highest Ranked Habitat, offers protection for key species|
|Roaring Brook Headwaters Site||Dixville/Columbia||444 acres||High elevation, adjacent to large contiguous parcels, including Nash Stream Forest|
|Cedar Brook Site||Stewartstown||129 acres||Highest Ranked Habitat, high-quality wetland|
|Brush Road Forest Site||Pembroke||87 acres||Highest Ranked Habitat, vernal pools, preserves open space near urban area|
|*Pine Barrens||Concord||7||Pine Barrens is a Highest Ranked Habitat in the Region|
Supporting NH’s Aquatic Resource Mitigation Fund
As part of its wetlands permitting package, Northern Pass will also make a $3 million payment to NH’s Aquatic Resource Mitigation Fund (ARM) to cover impacts in the towns and watersheds outside of the communities where the Northern Pass conservation lands will be located.
The ARM Fund is managed by DES, which allocates grants to support projects that restore, enhance and preserve aquatic resources and upland buffers. Since 2007, the ARM Fund has been used to restore a variety of wetland habitats, conserve more than 12,000 acres of land, restore 100 acres of wetland, and improve more than 45 miles of streams.
The New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee (SEC) will hear from a panel of five experts this week covering a wide range of topics related to Northern Pass and the environment.
Members of the panel include Robert Varney, president of Normandeau Associates and former commissioner of the NH Department of Environmental Services (NHDES); Jake Tinus, project manager in the Environmental Studies and Permitting Global Practice for Burns & McDonnell Engineering, who has assessed the potential impact of Northern Pass on surface water and groundwater quality; Lee Carbonneau, senior principal scientist in the Wetlands/Terrestrial Group and assistant project manager for Normandeau Associates, who also serves as the permitting lead for Northern Pass; Dennis McGee, vice president at Normandeau Associates and senior consultant on special projects, who conducted analysis on the potential impacts Northern Pass could have on rare plants and rare or unusual natural communities; and Dr. Sarah Barnum, senior wildlife ecologist at Normandeau Associates and the author of the report Northern Pass Transmission Project Wildlife Report and Impact Assessment October 2015.
Topics that are likely to be discussed include:
The New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee resumed discussions about the project today, focusing on the economic benefits of Northern Pass to New Hampshire and the effect it will have on the region’s carbon emissions.
Julia Frayer, a managing director with London Economics, will discuss her research on the potential impact Northern Pass will have on the wholesale electricity market, the environment, and the local economy. Frayer specializes in economic analysis and market design issues related to energy infrastructure, such as electric generation facilities, natural gas-related infrastructure, and electricity transmission and distribution systems. She has consulted for a number of regulatory agencies across North America, including Connecticut’s Department of Public Utility Control and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
Some key points likely to be discussed today include:
FINAL HEARINGS UPDATE
The New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee (SEC) continues its final hearings on the Northern Pass project, including discussions with construction experts. This month’s hearings began on May 1 with the project’s panel of witnesses answering questions and providing details about underground and overhead construction, traffic management, and outreach to local communities and businesses. The panel also discussed jobs and the project’s commitment to hire local workers.
“Transporting heavy equipment is very expensive, so excavators, bulldozers, dump trucks, all that will be locally sourced as much as possible to contain costs,” said Samuel Johnson, lead project manager for Northern Pass, according to reports in the New Hampshire Union Leader.
The construction panel will resume on May 31, followed by testimony from Julia Frayer, who will speak about her analysis of the economic and environmental impacts of Northern Pass. Following Frayer, a panel of environmental witnesses will discuss the numerous environmental studies conducted along the route, as well as the steps Northern Pass will take to avoid or mitigate impacts.
The final hearings, which began in April, are the last phase of the state permitting process before the SEC returns its decision on the project. Thus far, the SEC has heard from witnesses about the technical, managerial, and financial capabilities of the project, the Forward NH Plan, and how the project relates to public health and safety and system reliability.
What’s next for Northern Pass
Forward NH Fund Officially Formed
Earlier this year, Northern Pass took steps to formally create the Forward NH Fund as an independent, nonprofit entity. The Fund will manage and allocate $200 million, in the form of loans and grants, to targeted programs that support the areas of community betterment, clean energy innovation, tourism, and economic development. Funding will occur over 20 years, with $10 million contributed to the Fund each year.
The Forward NH Fund will be governed by a Board of Directors and Advisory Boards, made up of municipal, community and business leaders, representatives of clean energy and environmental organizations, and North Country leaders. It will be the task of the Advisory Boards to review funding requests and make recommendations to the Board of Directors for approval of those projects that align with the funding priorities. The Advisory Boards will consider proposals from a wide range of organizations, including municipalities, non-profit groups, businesses, and residents.
$200 million in loans and grants for community betterment, clean energy innovation, economic development, and tourism projects throughout NH, with an emphasis on projects in the North Country.
The Forward NH Fund was announced in 2015 as part of the Forward NH Plan, which included a number of economic and environmental benefits specific to New Hampshire. The Fund will begin operations once Northern Pass has received all necessary permits and the line is in service. Questions about the Fund can be directed to Northern Pass at 1-800-286-7305 or at email@example.com.
Northern Pass Reaches Out to Businesses Along Underground Route
Northern Pass has proposed its transmission line be buried for a total of 60 miles under public roadways in parts of Coös and Grafton counties. Although construction will not begin until Northern Pass has received all necessary federal and state approvals, we understand that owners may have questions about how the project could affect their businesses. Last month, the project sent letters to more than 250 businesses located along the underground portion of the route to begin a conversation about how Northern Pass can address any concerns they might have about the underground construction phase of the project.
The letters also offered business owners information about the work Northern Pass representatives are doing now to proactively address concerns, including developing plans to ensure businesses and property owners have continued access during construction, taking into consideration other activity and events in the community, and ensuring roads that are disturbed during construction are restored to the same or better conditions. The project is dedicated to taking a personalized approach to protect the interests of businesses and property owners, and will meet and continually communicate with them before, during and after construction to respond to their concerns.
Don’t’ miss your final chance to comment on Northern Pass! Tomorrow, May 31 is the deadline to sign up for one of the public comment sessions the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee (SEC) is holding as part of its review of Northern Pass. These are the last public hearings the SEC will have about Northern Pass and your final opportunity to tell state officials your thoughts on the project.
The public hearings will be held on June 15, June 22 and July 20 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., at 49 Donovan Street in Concord. People have the option of submitting a public comment or providing oral comment at the session.
The SEC is requiring people who wish to provide an oral comment to pre-register to ensure the proceedings run efficiently and smoothly. If you would like to present an oral statement, please send an email no later than May 31 to Marissa Schuetz, Program Specialist at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include the following information in your email:
The SEC will post a schedule of speakers on its website (www.nhsec.nh.gov/projects/2015-06/2015-06.htm) in advance of the first public statement hearing date. People who sign up to comment are asked to review the roster to see which day they are scheduled to speak. If there is time remaining on any of these public comment days, members of the public that did not pre-register will be provided time to speak after those that did pre-register.
We encourage those who are interested in submitting a comment to do so, either in person during one of the public comment sessions, or in writing. You can submit your written comment today by sending it to:
or by mail to:
New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee
Pamela G. Monroe, Administrator
21 South Fruit Street, Suite 10
Concord, NH 03301-2429
(May 9, 2017) – The New Hampshire House Science, Technology and Energy Committee (ST&E) voted today, 20-1, to retain SB 128, a bill aimed at clarifying the authority of the NH Public Utilities Commission (PUC) under New Hampshire’s electric restructuring law to consider opportunities by electric utilities to lower consumers’ energy costs.
Clarifying the authority of the New Hampshire PUC to assess the benefits of such measures would ensure consideration of a power purchase agreement (PPA) between Public Service of New Hampshire (PSNH) and Hydro-Québec (HQ). The proposed PPA would provide 100 MW of favorably priced Northern Pass power to PSNH customers for 20 years.
Importantly, the PPA is not a requirement for state siting approval of Northern Pass by the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee. Rather, it was provided in response to New Hampshire stakeholders’ requests for unique clean energy benefits from Northern Pass, above and beyond those received by other New England states.
“We understand the importance of considering this proposed legislation carefully,” said Bill Quinlan, President of NH Operations at Eversource. “We are committed to continuing to work intently with the NH Legislature, the PUC, and other parties to identify solutions for delivering much-needed energy rate relief for our customers.”
“We stand by our commitment to our New Hampshire neighbors, and look forward to delivering the benefits of the PPA in the future, should such an opportunity arise” said Steve Demers, Hydro-Québec’s Vice President of Business Development.
The PPA is only one element of Northern Pass’ robust Forward NH Plan, which will provide more than $3 billion in benefits to New Hampshire. A significant component of this plan is an estimated $600 million annually in regional energy cost savings separate and apart from the PSNH-HQ PPA. These savings result by adding a new and substantial supply of reliable power to the region’s electric grid at Deerfield, NH, which results in a more competitive market and lowers wholesale energy power prices for all New England consumers. New Hampshire’s share of this reduction is projected to be more than $60 million a year.
The Forward NH Plan will also provide about $30 million annually in new tax revenues, create about 2,600 construction jobs, and provide $200 million in funding for community betterment, economic development, clean energy and tourism. Moreover, Northern Pass will reduce CO2 emissions by more than 3 million tons a year.
SB 128 will remain in the House ST&E Committee for further work and consideration this session. The Committee has until the end of 2017 to vote on the bill. SB 128 will then move to the full NH House of Representatives for a vote in January, at the start of its 2018 session.
Northern Pass is in the final stages of securing necessary state and federal permits, with decisions expected this year.