The Forest Service says project is in “public interest” and provides “meaningful benefits to air quality” in the Forest
Manchester, N.H. (January 8, 2018) – The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) has released its final Record of Decision (ROD) 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 decision is the result of a thorough environmental analysis and public engagement process led by two WMNF supervisors over a seven-year period, and comes on the heels of a Record of Decision and Presidential Permit issued by the U.S. Department of Energy late last year. The USFS will issue the necessary Special Use Authorization to allow the project to be buried within the WMNF. With these approvals secured, the project is well-positioned to begin construction in mid-2018, and to bring an additional 1,090 MW of much-needed clean hydroelectric power into the region by late 2020.
“We appreciate the diligent work done by the USFS and WMNF staff over the years, and are gratified that they have concluded the benefits of Northern Pass more than outweigh the short-term construction impacts on the Forest,” said Eversource New Hampshire President Bill Quinlan. “When we proposed an underground cable for the WMNF portion of the route, we believed it was the best option for the Forest and for New Hampshire. We’re pleased to see that the USFS agrees.”
The Forest Service notes that Northern Pass 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 WMNF.
Highlights from the Final ROD include:
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 final 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 press release was issued by Eversource on July 27, 2017. For relevant materials, click here.
Proposals will offer substantial environmental and economic benefits to consumers in New Hampshire, Massachusetts and New England
MANCHESTER, N.H. (July 27, 2017) – Eversource and Hydro-Québec (HQ) today submitted two comprehensive proposals in response to the Massachusetts Clean Energy solicitation. Both proposals would use the Northern Pass Transmission project (NPT) to deliver significant amounts of clean energy to the New England grid, interconnecting in New Hampshire. The solicitation is the result of a law passed last year by the Massachusetts Legislature to provide for new sources of clean energy for decades into the future. The two proposals are a 100 percent hydropower option and a hydropower and onshore wind combination option, and both highlight NPT’s advanced project development and Eversource’s extensive experience in building and operating the transmission grid in the region.
“Northern Pass is the most mature and comprehensive solution to meet the region’s clean energy goals and will help provide stability over the price and supply of the energy for years to come,” said Lee Olivier, Executive Vice President of Strategy and Business Development at Eversource Energy. “As New England’s largest utility, we are uniquely positioned to deliver on that promise. We are excited to begin delivering the substantial benefits of this project to consumers throughout the region.”
The Northern Pass transmission line begins at the Canadian border in Pittsburg, New Hampshire and extends 192 miles to Deerfield, New Hampshire where it connects to the New England grid. More than 80 percent of the line will be located along existing transmission corridors or buried along roadways to eliminate potential view impacts in the White Mountain National Forest area. NPT will provide a robust, new interconnection path between the Québec and New England electric systems, and will be controlled by the regional system operator, ISO-NE.
Northern Pass will soon be a shovel-ready project with all major state and federal permits expected in 2017. Moreover, all major contractor and equipment contracts are fully executed to begin construction early in 2018. The majority of the project’s construction will take place in 2018 and 2019. A project labor agreement has been executed and is expected to generate thousands of jobs during peak construction for both Granite State and Bay State workers. Northern Pass will be substantially complete by the third quarter of 2020, and following testing, the line will be in service by the end of 2020 – prior to the critical 2020-2021 winter period.
Clean Energy Solutions
The 100 percent hydropower option included in the Northern Pass bid would deliver 1,090 megawatts of clean hydroelectric energy and the associated environmental attributes from HQ’s existing resources. A second option would combine predominantly firm hydropower from HQ with new wind generation located in Québec, provided by a partnership of wind developers, Gaz Métro and Boralex. The wind power will be backed by hydropower and includes Class I Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs). Both options guarantee a firm delivery of 1,090 megawatts of clean energy year round, including winter and summer days when demand for energy is greatest.
Achieving Environmental Benefits and Reducing Costs
Northern Pass will be capable of providing up to 9.4 terawatt hours of clean energy that the Massachusetts legislation requires on an annual basis while helping the Bay State attain the clean energy goals required by its Global Warming Solutions Act. The project will also reduce wholesale energy costs, diversify the region’s energy mix, and help fill the gap created by the retirement of older generating plants. Further, Northern Pass will help reduce reliance on natural gas-fired sources, particularly during the winter months when the gas pipeline system into New England is constrained.
Enabling Enhanced Economic and Community Betterment
In an effort to provide additional benefits, Northern Pass has finalized an agreement with leading Massachusetts low-income advocates, including Action for Boston Community Development, Action, Inc., and the National Consumer Law Center, that commits $10 million in funding to support low-income energy programs and services for Massachusetts low-income customers over 20 years.
As the host state for the Northern Pass project, New Hampshire will receive new property tax revenues and additional benefits to promote community betterment and economic development. The project enjoys strong support from many of New Hampshire’s business leaders, labor organizations and elected officials.
In summary, Northern Pass will help stabilize regional energy prices, provide a firm supply of clean energy, lower greenhouse gas emission, and provide hundreds of new jobs and additional economic benefits for Massachusetts residents. With approval of state and federal permits expected by the end of 2017, all major construction and supplier contracts fully executed, the Northern Pass proposal is the most advanced and comprehensive energy solution for Massachusetts.
Eversource (NYSE: ES) transmits and delivers electricity and natural gas to more than 3.6 million electric and natural gas customers in Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Recognized as the top U.S. utility for its energy efficiency programs by the sustainability advocacy organization Ceres, Eversource harnesses the commitment of its approximately 8,000 employees across three states to build a single, united company around the mission of safely delivering reliable energy and superior customerservice. For more information, please visit our website (www.eversource.com) and follow us on Twitter (@EversourceCorp) and Facebook (facebook.com/EversourceEnergy).
The Northern Pass is a 192-mile electric transmission line project that will bring to New England 1,090 megawatts of clean hydropower. This reliable and affordable source of power will also bring a wide range of benefits to the region, including millions of dollars in energy cost savings and a significant reduction in carbon emissions. To learn more about Northern Pass, go to www.northernpass.us.
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:
Northern Pass reached another significant milestone yesterday 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. The approvals are essential components of the state siting process being conducted by the NH Site Evaluation Committee (NH SEC), and according to DES, mark the conclusion of the agency’s review of the project’s siting application. The NH SEC is scheduled to render a final decision on the Northern Pass application later this year.
The approvals from DES follow a series of important milestones and achievements for Northern Pass, which include:
Northern Pass had a landmark year in 2016, reaching a number of milestones key to the project’s approval. The Department of Energy (DOE) received public comments and held a series of public hearings throughout New Hampshire. At the state level, the NH Site Evaluation Committee (SEC) took comments from the public, held a number of public hearings, and advanced the process through Technical Sessions and decisions on motions.
Looking ahead to 2017, the SEC will hold adjudicative hearings in the spring, and is expected to make a final decision on the project no later than September 30. The DOE is expected to release its final Environmental Impact Statement sometime next year, as well.
Below is a recap of 2016 milestones to highlight how far the project has come this year. We look forward to 2017, with Northern Pass on track to complete all permitting processes.
The DOE held public hearings throughout the state in March to gather input on its draft Environmental Impact Statement on Northern Pass.
The SEC held 12 public information sessions and public hearings on Northern Pass throughout the state and in communities along the route from January through June. Northern Pass also organized a series of bus tours of the route for the SEC and interveners in coordination with these hearings.
The discovery phase of the state permitting process began in April, requiring Northern Pass to provide documents to the Counsel for the Public and the interveners to the Northern Pass SEC docket. This process continued into August and concluded with Northern Pass staff providing more than 1,250 data responses.
In the fall, the SEC began its first round of Technical Sessions, which provided an informal opportunity for the parties involved in the Northern Pass state review process to ask questions of project experts. There were 21 session held, covering a wide range of topics related to the project, including construction, project benefits, aesthetics, and economic and environmental impact.
Northern Pass secured a key regulatory approval in July when ISO New England officially determined that the clean energy project can reliably interconnect with the regional electric grid. By approving the project’s I.3.9 application, ISO New England determined Northern Pass will not have a significant, adverse effect on the reliability or operating characteristics of the regional grid and its participants.
The New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission (NHPUC) announced in October that Northern Pass has the technical, managerial, and financial expertise to operate as a public utility once the project is fully permitted, and that it is in the public good for the project to do so. The agreement includes Northern Pass’ commitment to provide $20 million ($2 million a year for 10 years) for programs or initiatives approved by the NHPUC that advance clean energy innovation, community betterment, and economic development in New Hampshire, including energy efficiency programs.
In the Community
Business leaders from across the state representing 50 companies announced their support for Northern Pass in March. In a joint statement to the Site Evaluation Committee, the diverse group of New Hampshire businesses, including some of the state’s largest employers, urged elected officials to join them in support of the project.
The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) announced eight conservation, restoration and research grants in August totaling nearly $1 million to restore New Hampshire’s forest and freshwater habitat. The grants were funded through Partners for New Hampshire’s Fish and Wildlife, a partnership between Northern Pass, Eversource and NFWF. Collectively, these projects will open 175 miles of streams for Eastern Brook Trout, improve habitat for New England cottontail, American woodcock, and golden-winged warblers on 852 acres of forestland, and reduce polluted runoff from entering streams, including 47 tons of sediment and 41 tons of phosphorus.
Roger’s Campground in Lancaster unveiled the North Country’s first electric vehicle charging station in May, made possible through funding from Northern Pass and the Forward NH Plan.
In July, Lancaster became the first North Country town to install energy-efficient LED street lights, reducing energy consumption by 60 percent. Switching from conventional to LED street lights was funded by the Forward NH Plan.
Emergency responders saw an improvement to their radio communications system in eight communities in northern New Hampshire and Vermont this summer thanks to the installation of a new emergency radio antenna. The antenna, which was funded by Northern Pass, enables police to communicate via radio in areas where radio signal was previously unavailable.
Project Work and Construction
In April, Northern Pass announced the major contractors and material suppliers who will execute the engineering, design and construction of the Northern Pass transmission line once the project receives state and federal permits. Later that month, Northern Pass contractors began field work along the proposed route that continued through the rest of the year. Geotechnical work included soil boring tests along the proposed route to log soil characteristics, and archeological field work included shovel test sampling for historical artifacts, as is required under the National Historic Preservation Act, Section 106 process and by the SEC.
Other Key Decisions
The New Hampshire Superior Court ruled in favor of Northern Pass in May and unequivocally dismissed claims by the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests that use of public highways was subject to the Forest Society’s approval.
In June, Eversource and Hydro-Québec reached a significant agreement that ensures Eversource customers in New Hampshire will receive a substantial supply of clean energy from the Northern Pass hydroelectric transmission project. The power purchase agreement, or PPA, is expected to deliver additional benefits that, when combined with the lowering of market power prices, bring the total estimated energy cost savings for New Hampshire customers to more than $1 billion.
Eversource was notified yesterday that our Northern Pass Transmission project was not chosen as part of the three-state Clean Energy RFP (request for proposals). We recognize that this RFP was primarily focused on satisfying Class 1 renewable energy (wind and solar) requirements of the participating states, and NPT was among other project proposals that did not strictly meet that criteria.
We are now focusing our efforts on the next round of contracting immediately around the corner — most specifically in Massachusetts. We are encouraged that Governor Baker and the Legislature have spoken by passing a landmark law that enables long-term contracting for large-scale hydro projects and requires an RFP to take place in the spring of 2017. Northern Pass is well positioned to respond to the region’s call for clean, large-scale hydropower.
“We are pleased with the key approvals the project continues to receive, and look forward to participating in the April solicitation for large-scale hydroelectricity,” said Bill Quinlan, President of Eversource NH Operations. “The region’s energy landscape is shifting quickly. Northern Pass, with its 1,090 MWs of clean hydro-power, and permitting well underway on both sides of the border, is in a strong position to play an important role in helping the region achieve a cleaner energy future.”
“New England is leading the U.S. in transition to a clean energy future and Hydro-Québec, as your long-standing ally in the energy sector, is happy to be a part of that future,” said Steve Demers, Vice President, Business Development, Acquisitions and Strategy for Hydro-Québec. “With the Northern Pass project, Hydro-Québec will be in a position to greatly increase its supply of clean hydropower to New England, helping to keep electricity prices stable and bringing the region closer to meeting its emission reduction goals.”
We know that a mix of clean energy sources will be needed to solve our region’s energy challenges given our strong commitment to reducing carbon emissions, as well as the planned base load generation retirements on the horizon. We are pleased to see the states moving ahead with Class 1 renewables (solar and wind) as part of this solicitation. However, significantly more is needed and Northern Pass is designed to meet that need.
ISO-New England has identified the region’s electricity supply situation as “precarious” in winter and we know the time to act is now. Northern Pass will provide substantial reliability, economic and environmental benefits to the region.
Northern Pass will bring its clean, reliable hydroelectricity from Hydro-Québec’s existing resources over a high-voltage transmission line extending from Des Cantons substation in Québec to Deerfield, New Hampshire where the line will interconnect to the New England electric system. The power delivered by Northern Pass will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by up to 3.3 million tons a year, the equivalent of taking about 690,000 cars off the road.
Beyond helping to meet regional clean energy goals, Northern Pass will deliver unique and substantial benefits to New Hampshire, including a power purchase agreement that will dedicate a specific portion of Northern Pass’s clean hydroelectricity to Eversource New Hampshire customers, 2,600 construction jobs with a commitment to hire New Hampshire workers first, over $600 million in new tax revenue, and $200 million for New Hampshire economic, community development and clean energy initiatives through the Forward NH Fund.
Eversource representatives will be in Concord on Tuesday to discuss the Northern Pass route selection, the Forward NH Plan, benefits to New Hampshire and the Tri-State Clean Energy RFP application.
The representatives will appear before the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee (SEC) as part of its ongoing review of Northern Pass, known as Technical Sessions. These informal hearings are an opportunity for the parties involved in the Northern Pass state review process to ask questions the project.
The project experts include:
William J. Quinlan is the Eversource President of New Hampshire Operations and is responsible for ensuring the safe and reliable delivery of electricity to more than 500,000 Eversource customers in New Hampshire, as well as overseeing the construction, operation, and maintenance of Eversource’s New Hampshire electricity infrastructure.
Kenneth B. Bowes joined Northeast Utilities in 1984 and today serves as Eversource Vice President of Engineering. Mr. Bowes is responsible for engineering activities for Eversource’s electric transmission and distribution system. He manages the distributed generation, micro-grid, new technology, and R&D activities for the company, and executes the System Resiliency Program and Distributed Energy Resources projects.
Northern Pass, through its Forward NH Plan, will bring considerable benefits to New Hampshire including approximately $3.8 billion in jobs programs, energy savings, tax revenue, an increase in New Hampshire’s GDP, investment in clean energy and the environment and other benefits. Other key points about Northern Pass, its route and its benefits include:
You can find additional information about the benefits of the project, as well as the pre-filed testimony from the above experts, on the Northern Pass website. Technical Sessions will continue throughout September. View a schedule of all the Technical Sessions here.
*Editor’s Note: Quinlan and Bowes have adopted James Muntz’s testimony, who previously submitted testimony as part of the application to the SEC.
Northern Pass experts will be available on Tuesday to answer questions about how the project relates to the local and regional environment. They will discuss environmental studies related to the project as well as how Northern Pass is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The experts will appear before the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee as part of its ongoing review of the project, known as Technical Sessions. These informal hearings are an opportunity for the parties involved in the Northern Pass state review process to ask questions of the project.
The project experts include:
Robert Varney, is President of Normandeau Associates, an environmental science consulting firm based in Bedford. Mr. Varney has worked on a number of climate, clean energy, and conservation initiatives throughout his career; and he served as the Regional Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency for New England and as the Commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services from 1989 to 2001.
Jake Tinus is Project Manager in the Environmental Studies and Permitting Global Practice for Burns & McDonnell Engineering and has 15 years of experience related to permitting and monitoring projects that involve altering and restoring wetlands, water bodies, and other natural resources. He has previously consulted on these issues for the New Hampshire Department of Transportation.
Lee Carbonneau is Senior Principal Scientist in the Wetlands/Terrestrial Group and assistant project manager for Normandeau Associates, where she also serves as the permitting lead for Northern Pass. She has worked in the natural resource field for her entire professional career and has worked on more than100 projects with Narmandeau Associates. Ms. Carbonneau is a Professional Wetland Scientist with the Society of Wetland Scientists, and a Certified Wetland Scientist with the New Hampshire Association of Natural Resource Scientists.
Dennis Magee is Vice President at Normandeau Associates and conducted analysis on the potential impacts Northern Pass could have on rare plants and rare or unusual natural communities. Mr. Magee has more than 40 years of experience as a botanist, has authored four reference books on vegetation, and has been a principal investigator or program manager on several hundred projects occurring in offshore coastal, intertidal, riverine, lacustrine, freshwater wetland, and terrestrial environments.
Dr. Sarah Barnum is a Senior Wildlife Ecologist at Normandeau Associates and holds a Ph.D. in Planning, with an emphasis in conservation. She has more than 20 years of professional experience, including working on the Deer Project for Vermont Fish and Wildlife, as an environmental planner for the Colorado Department of Transportation, and as the Vice President of Conservation for New Hampshire Audubon. She is author of the report “Northern Pass Transmission Project Wildlife Report and Impact Assessment October 2015.”
Hydropower from Canada is one of the lowest greenhouse gas-emitting energy options available. Emissions from hydropower are similar to those of wind energy, 5 times less than solar, 50 times less than natural gas, and 70 times less than coal. Other key points about the environmental impact of Northern Pass include:
If more time is needed, the panel of environmental experts will meet again on Thursday, September 22. You can find additional information about the environmental aspects of the project, as well as the pre-filed testimony from the above experts, on the Northern Pass website. Technical Sessions will continue throughout September. View a schedule of all the Technical Sessions here.