A letter this week from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regarding potential impacts along the northernmost area of the proposed Northern Pass route contains no new information and Eversource has confirmed with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) that the letter will not affect the decision regarding a required ACOE wetlands permit. It is also important to note that Northern Pass does not require a permit from the U.S. EPA. The agency’s letter this week was directed to the ACOE, which is expected to issue a required wetlands permit to Northern Pass before the end of the year. EPA’s comments were a repeat of what the agency said last year. Northern Pass responded to the EPA in an October, 2016 letter, noting that “our proposed route is the least environmentally damaging practicable alternative…” Additionally, the U.S. Department of Energy last month issued the project a Final Environmental Impact Statement, concluding that the proposed Northern Pass route is the “preferred alternative,” that the project provides substantial benefits, and will result in only minimal impacts.
The N.H. Department of Environmental Services issued a state wetlands permit to Northern Pass in March, 2017, following a comprehensive review, including a study of the issues originally raised by the EPA last year and Northern Pass’ wetlands mitigation plan. The project’s wetlands mitigation plan includes a $3 million payment to the N.H. Aquatic Resource Mitigation Fund (ARM) and the dedication of 1,627 acres of approved land for wetland mitigation – exceeding the state and federal requirements for wetlands mitigation the project must meet. The mitigation package also includes eight conservation sites which are valued for having numerous wetlands, floodplains, streams, vernal pools, or are connected to other conservation lands.
The New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee (SEC) today began hearing testimony from President of Normandeau Associates and former New England Regional Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency Robert Varney about his review of Northern Pass and how it relates to the orderly development of New Hampshire. Below is more information about Varney and a summary of his findings, provided in his pre-filed testimony submitted to the SEC.
ROBERT VARNEY is the President of Normandeau Associates, an environmental science consulting firm based in Bedford, where he began in 2009 as Executive Vice President. He served nearly eight years as Regional Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, New England; as the Executive Director of the Nashua Regional Planning Commission and the Upper Valley Lake Sunapee Regional Planning Commission; as senior planner at the Lakes Region Planning Commission; as the Commissioner of the NH Department of Environmental Services from 1989 to 2001; and as Chairman of the NH Site Evaluation Committee for that same 12-year period. In addition, Mr. Varney has worked on initiatives associated with climate change, energy efficiency and renewable energy, integration of energy and environmental programs, and restoration of rivers, lakes, and coastal areas. He will speak on the impact the Northern Pass Transmission Project will have on air quality and the project’s consistency with the goals of state, regional, and national air quality and climate change policies.
For More Information:
Northern Pass’ application to the NH Site Evaluation Committee; Vol. II; Pre-Filed Testimony; Varney
The New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee (SEC) issued an order yesterday outlining procedures for the rest of the Northern Pass hearing schedule that could affect the date of the final decision. We appreciate the SEC’s efforts to ensure the remainder of the hearings are not, as they state, “bogged down by unnecessary and inefficient friendly cross-examination.” The SEC further concludes that it would be “unreasonable” to accept the amount of time requested by interveners. We are encouraged that the SEC is taking steps to ensure efficiency for the balance of the proceedings and remain hopeful that the process will be complete earlier than the recently announced March deadline.
Excerpts from the procedural order:
The New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee (SEC) will today hear from Terry DeWan and Jessica Kimball of Terrence J. DeWan & Associates, a landscape architecture and planning firm located in Yarmouth, Maine. Both conducted research and compiled data that was submitted as part of the Northern Pass’ state application, including view simulations along the proposed route. Northern Pass has made the photo simulations of the proposed route available on its website.
The U.S. Forest Service has released its Draft Record of Decision (ROD) recommending that the agency issue a special use permit allowing Northern Pass Transmission to bury approximately eleven miles of transmission lines in areas along existing roads through the White Mountain National Forest (WMNF). The Draft ROD represents another significant step forward for Northern Pass in the permitting process, and comes on the heels of the Final Environmental Impact Statement released by the U.S. Department of Energy last month – both highlighting the soundness of the proposal and the benefits to New Hampshire and the region.
“This proposed decision by the U.S. Forest Service continues to move Northern Pass forward so that it will have all necessary state and federal permits to begin construction by mid-2018,” Eversource New Hampshire President Bill Quinlan said. “It is consistent with the key findings of other permitting agencies, including the Department of Energy, the NH Department of Environmental Services and the NH Department of Transportation.”
The Draft ROD is the culmination of seven years of review and extensive public input. In 2015, Northern Pass announced an improved route that included 52 additional miles of underground to avoid any potential view impacts in and around the WMNF or along the Appalachian Trail. The Draft ROD supports the project’s conclusion that burial along Interstate 93 is not a reasonable alternative, and states that the improved route “is a reasonable way to transmit electrical power through the WMNF in a minimally impactful way when considering all available alternatives.”
The following excerpts are from the Draft ROD:
The Forest Service also notes that the project will increase the reliability of New England’s power supply, by reducing reliance on imported natural gas; help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions consistent with public policy goals and the New Hampshire Climate Action Plan; and, provide “meaningful benefits to air quality” in the White Mountain National Forest.
“Meeting long-term energy needs in a sustainable, secure, and cost-effective manner for this region of the country is certainly in the public’s interest,” the Forest Service states.
In the coming weeks, Northern Pass will continue to review the specifics contained in the Draft ROD.
Recent Project Milestones include:
The NH Site Evaluation Committee today voted to extend the deadline for their final written decision on Northern Pass by six months, to March 31, 2018.
Northern Pass is disappointed in today’s decision considering this review process was already extended by nine months, from what was originally a 12-month process under recently enacted NH law.
We’re encouraged by the SEC’s willingness to pursue options for concluding the review in advance of the new deadline.
We remain confident in our ability to achieve a 2020 in-service date. Further, we are convinced that we have submitted the most mature project into the Massachusetts Clean Energy RFP and we continue to believe that we will be in a position to start construction in the second quarter of 2018.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has finalized a Programmatic Agreement (PA) regarding Northern Pass, which marks further progress in the federal permitting process for the clean energy project. The PA is a legally binding agreement that prescribes the steps necessary to complete the federal and state agency review of historic and archeological resources, including addressing any adverse effects. The PA is part of a larger process under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, and is separate from the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) environmental review.
The signatories to the PA include officials from DOE, the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Department of Interior, the New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources, and Northern Pass Transmission.
Recent Project Milestones include:
Northern Pass Achieves Key Permitting Milestone
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) issued the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for Northern Pass on August 10, concluding the project’s proposed route is the “preferred alternative.” The final EIS also stated that Northern Pass provides substantial environmental and economic benefits for New Hampshire and the region and will result in only minimal impacts. Required by the National Environmental Policy Act, the FEIS is the result of years of review of project environmental impacts and reflects the careful consideration of thousands of comments submitted by key stakeholders and the public.
Northern Pass is now awaiting the issuance of its federal permits, including DOE’s Presidential Permit, a Special Use Permit from the U.S. Forest Service, and the Section 404 Permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Northern Pass has already received the final permitting decisions from New Hampshire’s Department of Environmental Services, Public Utilities Commissions and Department of Transportation, and continued with final hearings before the N.H. Site Evaluation Committee in August.
Conclusions from the Final Environmental Impact Statement
REGIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS
MEETING THE REGION’S ENERGY NEEDS
ECONOMIC BOOST FOR N.H.
OTHER BENEFITS FOR N.H. In addition to the benefits highlighted in the FEIS, Northern Pass will provide — and in some cases has already provided — significant investment in on-the-ground conservation and economic development programs.
What’s Next for Northern Pass
Site Tours Along North Country, Underground Route
The New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee (SEC) recently toured a number of sites along the proposed Northern Pass routes. The visits, held on July 27 and 28, included stops in Pittsburg, Clarksville, Stewartstown, Dummer, Stark, Lancaster, Bethlehem, Franconia, Easton and Woodstock.
The locations of these stops were proposed by Counsel for the Public in a request that the SEC consider viewing portions of the proposed underground burial route as well as proposed additional above-ground sites in northern New Hampshire.
The July visits were in addition to four days of site visits held in March 2016 that included stops in Pittsburg, Clarksville, Stewartstown, Colebrook, Stark, Lancaster, Whitefield, Bethlehem, Bridgewater, Bristol, Franklin, Canterbury, Concord, Pembroke, Allenstown and Deerfield.
Northern Pass Reaffirms Commitment to Hiring Local Workers First
Northern Pass has long been committed to hiring New Hampshire workers first for the construction of Northern Pass. Eversource, Northern Pass’ parent company, recently reaffirmed that commitment with a project labor agreement. On August 7, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) announced a finalized agreement that covers both union workers and non-union workers and businesses, including workers needed for the construction of access roads, logging and clearing, trucking and other key construction-related activities.
The announcement is positive news for New Hampshire’s electrical workers as Northern Pass now presents an opportunity for them to work on a project in their home state, closer to their family and friends.
Tiler Eaton of the IBEW said, “Given the size of this project and the number of trained electrical workers needed, we anticipate this project will not only fully utilize all available New Hampshire members, but will also provide work for hundreds of our members from Massachusetts.” You can read the announcement on the Northern Pass website in our Document Library, www.northernpass.us/document-library.htm.
The N.H. Site Evaluation Committee will hear testimony today from historical and archeological experts who conducted research about the route for Northern Pass. Below you will find information about these experts and information about their work.
CHERILYN WIDELL is principal of Widell Preservation Services in Chestertown, Maryland, and has worked in the field of historic preservation throughout the United States and internationally for 40 years. She was appointed by the Governor of California to serve as State Historic Preservation Officer with oversight of all aspects of historic resource protection throughout California. Ms. Widell also served as the federal preservation officer for the Presidio Trust—the federal agency responsible for the conversion of the Presidio of San Francisco from an Army post to a National Park—where she was responsible for agency compliance with federal regulations for more than 450 historic buildings and the archeological resources. Ms. Widell conducted assessments of the potential effects that the Northern Pass project may have on above-ground historic properties and cultural landscapes in New Hampshire.
VICTORIA BUNKER is the owner and principal investigator at Victoria Bunker, Inc., archeological consultants in Alton, NH. She has more than 35 years of experience in New England archeology, and is listed as qualified to conduct archeological surveys in New Hampshire by the NH Division of Historical Resources. In her career, Dr. Bunker has completed 750 projects relative to Section 106 compliance at Phase I, II and III level of study, and has conducted regional research surveys in the Lamprey, Merrimack, Pemigewasset and Mad River Valleys and throughout the White Mountain National Forest. She has authored numerous publications on New England archaeology and served the New Hampshire Archeological Society as President Emeritus, on the Board of Directors, and as past editor. Dr. Bunker conducted archaeological assessments for Northern Pass.
Facts at a Glance:
The review of the potential impact of the Northern Pass project on historic and archeological resources is required under the state’s energy project siting laws, and also by the U.S. DOE under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act.
For More Information:
Northern Pass is expected to create 2,600 jobs during construction. That’s why local labor unions have applauded the recent release of the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for Northern Pass. In addition to reaching this major permitting milestone, Eversource recently finalized a project labor agreement that will ensure local workers will be given hiring priority.
Statement from New Hampshire AFL-CIO President Glenn Brackett on the Department of Energy’s Release of the Northern Pass Transmission Line Project’s Final Environmental Impact Statement
“The New Hampshire AFL-CIO represents the men and women who will build this important clean energy infrastructure project, and we are excited about the opportunity the Northern Pass presents for New Hampshire working families. We were pleased to see that the U.S. Department of Energy’s official position is that the construction of the Northern Pass will create thousands of jobs for New Hampshire workers, and will not result in significant harm to our environment or scenic views. We have long known that building the Northern Pass will not only create jobs for thousands of construction workers, but will help jump start the local economy in New Hampshire’s North Country. It’s great to see that the Department of Energy agrees. As someone who grew up in the North Country, I know we need to do as much as we can to bring economic development to that part of our state. Building the Northern Pass will do just that.
“Knowing that our beautiful Granite State’s environment will be protected throughout this project’s lifetime is important to every Granite Stater, including our Brothers and Sisters who will be working to construct, operate, and maintain it. We are thrilled to see yesterday’s announcement from the Department of Energy that construction of the Northern Pass will not create unreasonable adverse impacts.”
Statement from International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 104 Business Manager Brian Murphy on the Release of the Final Environmental Impact Statement for Northern Pass
“The men and women of IBEW Local 104 applaud today’s release of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the Northern Pass Transmission project. After an exhaustive review of the project and considerable public comment, the EIS makes it clear that the Northern Pass project as proposed has minimal environmental effects and that the route selected is the best option for minimizing impacts on New Hampshire citizens. The Northern Pass project will provide work for hundreds of highly trained, local electrical workers, and IBEW Local 104 appreciates the timely, thorough work undertaken by the U.S. Department of Energy, and the Department’s focus on facts over rhetoric.”