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.
Northern Pass Receives Key Approval from NHDOT
Northern Pass reached another significant milestone in April when the New Hampshire Department of Transportation (NH DOT) issued its final report to the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee (NH SEC) recommending approval of the project. The final report comes after months of review of the application Northern Pass submitted to the state in October 2016.
The NH DOT decision follows the March 1 announcement that the NH Department of Environmental Services also recommends approval of the project following its review of environmental data and studies from along the project route. Both are essential components of the state siting process being conducted by the NH SEC, which is scheduled to render a final decision on the Northern Pass application later this year.
Final Hearings on Northern Pass Underway
Final hearings on the Northern Pass project began on April 13, launching the last phase of the state permitting process before the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee (SEC) returns its decision on the project.
The final hearings began with testimony from Bill Quinlan, Eversource President of NH Operations, who discussed the benefits Northern Pass will bring to New Hampshire, the Massachusetts Clean Energy request for proposals (RFP), and the transmission service agreement between Northern Pass Transmission LLC and Hydro Renewable Energy Inc., a subsidiary of Hydro-Québec.
Hearings have been scheduled through the first week of August, and will continue in May covering topics such as construction, and how the project relates to historical, archeological, and environmental resources.
In April, the hearings covered the following topics:
Northern Pass and The Balsams Team Up to Bring Jobs, Tourism to the North Country
The Forward NH Plan, established by Northern Pass, recently committed a $3 million loan to assist The Balsams Resort through its final phases of design, permitting and financing. The funding is in addition to $2 million previously provided by the Forward NH Plan and helped The Balsams Resort complete a Work Force Study and advance its application with the NH Business Finance Administration, bringing this important project a step closer to breaking ground.
The Work Force Study showed that redevelopment of The Balsams will generate 600 construction jobs and at least 400 jobs when Phase 1 of the facility opens. Once the build-out of the entire project is complete, The Balsams could employ up to 1,500 people, in addition to the jobs created indirectly through the investment in the greater community.
“The interesting thing here is the future is so bright,” said Bill Quinlan, Eversource President of NH Operations, in a recent video about the partnership. “If you think about building on that history and what this actually might look like 10 years from now, it’s really exciting. We purposefully picked The Balsams because we think it’s such a transformational project for the North Country.”
In recent years, the North Country has seen economic setbacks with businesses closing and people leaving the area, said Les Otten, developer of The Balsams Resort project. The joint effort of redeveloping The Balsams and building clean energy infrastructure nearby could have a significant positive impact on the economy, he said.
“This is an extraordinary opportunity because now we’re going to get to use renewables and its actually going to reduce our power costs,” said Otten. “In addition to that, it creates the opportunity to increase reliability, other businesses to locate near us, potentially an increase in manufacturing again in the North Country with the overall upgrade of lines, and having power being a little less expensive in New Hampshire is a big deal.”
You can watch the video on The Balsams Resort redevelopment and the partnership with the Forward NH Plan at https://thebalsamsresort.com/balsams-forward-nh-video.
Regulators Issue Favorable Order on Northern Pass Use of Existing Rights-Of-Way
New Hampshire regulators issued an order earlier this month that found Eversource has made a reasonable showing that it has the right to lease the use of its existing rights-of-way to Northern Pass. The ruling clears the way for the N.H. Public Utilities Commission to now consider the benefits of the proposed lease agreement between Eversource and Northern Pass.
More than 80 percent of the proposed Northern Pass route is within existing Eversource rights-of-way or buried under public roads. Under the proposed lease agreement, more than 98 percent of the lease revenue received by Eversource will be credited to customers. The NHPUC will now begin to consider the value of the lease and determine whether it is “for the public good.”
The New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee (SEC) will hear from a panel of six experts this week about details relating to the construction of Northern Pass.
The final hearings, which began in April, will continue May 1-4 with Kenneth Bowes, Eversource Vice President of Engineering who is responsible for engineering activities for Eversource’s electric transmission and distribution system. The Construction Panel will also include Samuel Johnson, lead Project Manager for the Northern Pass Transmission project; Derrick Bradstreet, Project Manager for Burns & McDonnell Engineering and the lead design engineer for the project; Nathan Scott, Senior Transmission Engineer for Burns & McDonnell Engineering and the underground project manager and lead engineer responsible for the electrical design of the three underground segments of the Northern Pass HVDC transmission line; John Kayser, Project Manager in the Transmission and Distribution division at Burns & McDonnell Engineering; and Lynn Farrington, a licensed Professional Traffic Operations Engineer for Louis Berger of Portland, Maine, who is advising Northern Pass on traffic impacts that may occur temporarily during construction.
Key points that will likely be discussed will include:
The New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee (SEC) will hear today about the impact Northern Pass will have on system stability and reliability, as well as the ISO New England I.3.9 process as part of its ongoing review of the project.
The final hearing today will include Robert Andrew, Director of System Solutions for Eversource. Andrew has more than 35 years of experience in the electrical generation and distribution industry and is responsible for ensuring the optimal performance of Eversource’s electric transmission and distribution system. This includes developing and executing system improvements, collaborating on project designs, and participating in the ISO New England Planning Process.
In July 2016, ISO New England approved the project’s I.3.9 application, determining that the current Northern Pass proposal to deliver 1,090 megawatts of electricity can reliably interconnect with the regional electric grid and will not have a significant, adverse effect on the reliability or operating characteristics of the regional grid and its participants. All energy projects must secure this approval to be connected to the New England grid. In 2014, ISO New England approved the I.3.9 application for the project’s original 1,200 megawatt proposal.
Key points that will likely be discussed include: