Four days of hearings on Northern Pass were scheduled in July before the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee (SEC), covering Northern Pass property tax revenue and what effect transmission lines have on tourism.
WHY PEOPLE VISIT NH
Mitch Nichols, of the Nichols Tourism Group, spoke about the research he conducted on the New Hampshire tourism industry and whether the presence of transmission lines is considered by tourists or those in the tourism industry as an influential factor.
In his study, Nichols used data collected by Plymouth State University’s Institute for New Hampshire Studies and U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data, as well as interviews with representatives from the state’s tourism industry and a prospective visitor’s survey. This research showed there are a number of issues that influence a visitor’s decision on where they will travel, including how easy it is to access the destination, the range of activities available, new or improved attractions, marketing, weather, and overall value for the money.
There is a lack of evidence to show that transmission lines influence tourism, and no known studies of transmission line development show a quantifiable impact on the tourism industry. The Nichols Tourism Group added in its report that during the group’s own work on more than 250 assignments studying a wide range of tourist destinations, they found no indication transmission lines have an impact on tourism.
“Never in the prior 20 years of planning work has any concern been raised regarding the presence of power lines and their possible negative influence on visitor demand,” the report said.
PROPERTY TAX REVENUE FOR COMMUNITIES ON THE ROUTE
Lisa Shapiro, Chief Economist at Gallagher, Callahan & Gartrell in Concord, provided testimony on her work estimating the Northern Pass property tax payments to New Hampshire communities.
One of the most direct and immediate benefits the communities along the proposed Northern Pass route will receive is increased property tax revenue. In its first full year of operation, the project will pay an estimated $35 million to $40 million in property taxes. That includes approximately:
Recently, Northern Pass reached out to all of the incorporated communities along the route to notify them of the expected tax revenue the project will bring over the next 20 years. In Stewartstown, for example, the estimated Northern Pass investment (which is an increase to the town’s tax base) in the first year after construction will be $69.9 million. Once built, Northern Pass will represent 45 percent of the town’s overall property value and yield an estimated first-year payment for municipal and local school taxes of $858,361. That would bring an estimated first-year homeowner tax benefit of up to $830 per $100,000 in home value.
For more information about the Northern Pass property tax revenue in communities along the route, go to www.northernpass.us/towns.htm.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR NORTHERN PASS
ENVIRONMENTAL MITIGATION AND ENHANCING NH’S CONSERVATION EFFORTS
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. Environmental mitigation is a term used primarily by government agencies and environmental organizations to describe projects or programs intended to offset known impacts to an existing resource, such as a stream, wetland, endangered species, or historic structure.
Northern Pass has worked with the New Hampshire’s Fish and Game Department, 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 that are valued for having numerous wetlands, floodplains, streams, vernal pools, or are connected to other conservation lands.
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 parcels will be preserved as part of the Northern Pass Wetland Mitigation Package:
*This Concord conservation land is in addition to the Wetland Mitigation package and is included in the overall mitigation plan.
ABOUT NORTHERN PASS
Northern Pass is a 192-mile electric transmission line project that will provide New Hampshire and New England up to 1,090 megawatts of clean hydropower. This reliable and competitively-priced power will also bring a range of benefits to New Hampshire, including hundreds of millions of dollars in energy cost savings, additional tax revenue, and thousands of jobs during construction and beyond. To learn more about Northern Pass, go to www.northernpass.us. You can also email questions to email@example.com or call 1-800-286-7305.
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.”
Northern Pass Receives Key Approvals from NH Environmental Agency
Northern Pass reached another significant milestone on March 1 when the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (DES) issued four key approvals of the project. DES’s decisions pertained to the Wetland, Shoreland and Alteration of Terrain permits, and the 401 Water Quality Certificate. As a condition included in this approval, Northern Pass agrees to set aside more than 1,600 acres throughout the state to preserve key habitats and species, such as high-elevation forest land and the Karner blue butterfly. Northern Pass will also have to make payments totaling $3.3 million to the State’s Aquatic Resources Mitigation Fund to be used for conservation efforts selected by the state.
The approvals are essential components of the state siting process being conducted by the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee (SEC), and according to DES, mark the conclusion of the agency’s review of the project’s siting application. The SEC is scheduled to render a final decision on the Northern Pass application later this year.
NORTHERN PASS MOVES AHEAD WITH PERMITTING PROCESS
The state’s review of Northern Pass continued in the first months of 2017 which were focused on technical sessions completed on March 24, 2017.
The SEC began the latest round of technical sessions on January 18, which provided Northern Pass an opportunity to review testimony and question witnesses for the Counsel for the Public and interveners. The Technical Sessions are part of the larger discovery phase of the state approval process and are a precursor to the adjudicative hearings, scheduled to begin in April.
The adjudicative hearings are formal legal proceedings similar to those you might find in a court of law. During the hearings, testimony will be presented by Northern Pass and project experts to the SEC, including data on benefits, construction procedures, environmental impact, and other aspects of the project, which will be subject to cross-examination. Witnesses for the Counsel for the Public and interveners will also provide testimony at this stage. The dates of the adjudicative hearings are available on the SEC website under the Northern Pass docket.
For more information and an outline of the New Hampshire permitting process, go to www.northernpass.us/permitting-siting.htm.
LOCAL TAXES AND NORTHERN PASS
An integral part of the Northern Pass proposal will be the investment in energy infrastructure in the communities along the route through the construction of the project. These investments will bring a large source of clean energy to the region, but will also result in increased tax revenue in the host communities.
Recently, Northern Pass reached out to all of the incorporated communities along the route to notify them of the expected tax revenue the project will bring over the next 20 years. In Stewartstown, for example, the estimated Northern Pass investment (which is an increase to the town’s tax base) in the first year after construction will be $69.9 million. That will yield a first-year payment for municipal and local school taxes of $858,361.
The total Northern Pass tax payment in all of the incorporated towns in the first-year after operations begin will be nearly $23 million. This does not include tax payments that will be made to the counties that host the project or to the state.
To learn more about the infrastructure investment Northern Pass will be making in your community and the tax payments that will result, go to www.northernpass.us/towns.htm.
Heavy Equipment Simulator Has Benefited More Than 90 North Country Students
The Arthur T. Paradice Career Technical Education Center at the White Mountains Regional High School (CTE) received a grant through the Coös County Jobs Creation Fund last year that enabled the school to purchase an Oryx excavator simulator for heavy equipment training in a number of CTE classes. Since its purchase, 90 freshmen have used the simulator in a Career Explorations class, learning how to use the basic controls to virtually grade land, dig trenches, and load simulated trucks.
In addition to this introductory course, the excavator simulator has been used by students in the school’s Agricultural Mechanics, Introduction to Mechanics, and Horticulture classes, and by the Future Farmers of America student organization. The simulator has been an effective tool in teaching students the physical science behind heavy equipment operation, how the equipment functions, and how it is repaired. These classes are also instrumental in laying the groundwork for the hydraulics units that are taught in classes at the CTE Center.
CTE Director Robert Scott, CTE Teacher Dana Graham, and Superintendent of SAU #36 Marion Anastasia, recently wrote a letter to the SEC touting the simulator’s success in the classroom.
“It is evident the Oryx simulator has already presented many benefits to the students of White Mountains Regional High School in a very short time period,” they wrote. “As we continue to refine the use of the simulator, we realize the potential of it becoming a valuable asset to the school as well as to the community.”
In the coming years, the school hopes to expand the use of the machine, such as adding components that simulate the use of a bulldozer, front end loader and other heavy equipment. The school is also looking to create partnerships with local industry and offer adult education training.
“By adding additional modules to the simulator, it would prepare our students in obtaining basic skills of heavy equipment operation on more than just an excavator,” the school officials wrote. “Local businesses are looking for skilled employees that have knowledge in the operation of multiple types of heavy equipment. Creating partnerships with local industries will result in two benefits for the school and community.”
A recent op-ed in the New Hampshire Union Leader challenges the idea that the state doesn’t need to improve on its energy infrastructure. As the regional grid operator, IOS New England has repeatedly said, “Unless and until there is new infrastructure in the region, we will face continuing threats to our electric grid.
March’s stormy weather was no match for the first off-shore wind farm in the U.S. Deepwater Wind, off the coast of Rhode Island, got through the storm without any problems while capturing the maximum amount of energy it could- 30 megawatts.
Energy officials from around the region gathered recently to discuss the future of renewable energy in the region. Cooperation is key, they agreed, but keeping an eye on costs is as well.
Maine legislators approved a $13 million bailout of the biomass industry last year with the hope of keeping plants open and keeping loggers working, but there are some questions now as to whether the move worked.
Union Leader, 26 March 2017
Rhodes Island Public Radio, 17 March 2017
RTO Insider, 27 March 2017
Bangor Daily news, 28 March 2017
New England energy officials are looking for ways to better incorporate renewable energy into the market, including possibly recognizing nuclear power as a non-carbon emitting source.
FERC has already approved several new pipelines in 2017, largely to transport natural gas produced in the eastern United States. None of these pipelines are located in New England.
While federal policies on trade have created tension among our closest neighbors, this story indicates energy trade between the U.S. and Canada will remain strong. In fact, Canada today is our largest trading partner when it comes to energy.
The New York Observer had some harsh words for Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has long pushed for the closure of Indian Point nuclear power plant. The facility supplies 25 percent of New York City and Westchester County’s energy (as well as supplying some energy to southern New England), yet, the editorial argues, there is no clear answer as to how to replace that power when Indian Point retires in 2021.
RTO Insider, 13 March 2017
EIA today in Energy, 7 March 2017
CNBC, 6 March 2017
Energy Information Administration, 1 March 2017
Observer, 3 March 2017
The ISO New England’s 2017 Regional Electricity Outlook was released last week and outlines significant changes the grid will face in the coming years as the region transitions to more natural gas and renewable sources of electric generation.
With the retirement of Pilgrim nuclear power station coming up in 2019, Massachusetts’ ability to meet carbon emission reduction targets is being called into question.
Without additional infrastructure to deliver the reliable, clean energy needed to satisfy demand during the region’s coldest winter months, states may see carbon emissions increase as less efficient, more polluting sources, such as coal and oil, are called upon.
The ISO New England Regional Electricity Outlook also reveals the region’s power sector saw a 2.9 percent increase in its carbon emission rate following the retirement of Vermont Yankee nuclear station in 2014.
New York’s Indian Point joins the ranks of nuclear plants scheduled to close. The plant’s closure means the region will need to replace more than 2,000 megawatts of power by 2021.
ISO-NE, January 2017
The Boston Globe, 13 February 2017
CommonWealth Magazine, 22 February 2017
MassLive.com, 18 February 2017
WAMC, 23 February 2017
Once again, the region’s grid manager has sounded the alarm that New England faces future grid vulnerabilities in the absence of adequate energy infrastructure. In a recent conference call with reporters ISO New England warned voluntary power restrictions and rolling blackouts could become necessary as nuclear plants continue to retire, and that the region will need to rely more heavily on oil and coal plants without additional gas capacity and new sources of power.
New Hampshire lawmakers plan to tackle the state’s high electricity costs during the legislative session this year. The business community continues to call for new infrastructure that would bring electricity into the region and reduce costs for major manufacturers in New Hampshire.
An appeal to the Supreme Court to restrict the use of highway easements for the placement of public utilities raised questions about the impact such a change would have on the utility siting process.
Going green is possible for electric utilities, but maintaining a reliable grid will require cooperation between a variety of power sources, including large-scale hydropower imported from Hydro-Quebec. A realistic renewable generation target, combined with additional renewable hydro from Canada will help the region achieve its decarbonization goals.
Platts, 30 January 2017
WMUR News-9, 29 January 2017
Union Leader, 3 February 2017
Vermont Digger, 5 February 2017
We hear again this week more concern from the business community about the high cost of electricity in New Hampshire. This story, focused on Seacoast-area manufacturers, highlights the feeling among business leaders that higher prices are “the cost of doing business” in the Granite State.
An affordable energy watch dog group is pointing to the recent decision by manufacturers to move out-of-state as a warning sign New Hampshire’s high energy costs are untenable. Industry is at the cutting edge of energy efficiency, but the group says a “balanced all-resource approach, which includes expansion of natural gas pipelines and electric transmission lines” is also needed to get costs under control.
An analysis of the changing New England energy landscape indicates wind, solar and imported hydropower will become increasingly important sources of generating electricity. Energy industry experts expect natural gas to remain a crucial resource for the foreseeable future, despite limitations on pipeline capacity, and it appears oil and coal are still on the decline.
The price spikes we’ve seen in New England’s wholesale energy market in recent winters have been blamed on a lack of natural gas pipeline capacity during winter months. These eight charts illustrate that the close ties in natural gas and electricity prices is not just a Northeastern phenomenon and should be considered in developing future energy policy.
Considering how closely natural gas and electricity prices are aligned, expectations that natural gas prices are going up is not good news for businesses – and homeowners – watching their bottom line.
Portsmouth Herald 29 January 2017
New Hampshire Business Review 19 January 2017
Wicked Local 21 January 2017
Utility Dive 25 January 2017
Forbes 23 January 2017
NH1 News, 5 January 2017
WMUR , 5 January 2017
Concord Monitor, 28 December 2016
Union Leader, 1 December 2016
RTO Insider, 2 January 2017
Utility Dive, 2 January 2017
CommonWealth Magazine, 10 January 2017
Exchange Monitor, 3 January 2017
Union Leader, December 15, 2016
Portland Press Herald, 19 December 2016
Commonwealth Magazine, 15 December 2016
Foster’s Daily Democrat, 16 December 2016