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:
The New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee’s (SEC) final hearings on Northern Pass continue today with a look at how the project relates to public health and safety.
Today’s hearing will include Dr. William Bailey, the Principal Scientist at the Center for Occupational and Environmental Health Risk Assessment at Exponent, Inc., and internationally recognized expert in the potential effects of electric and magnetic fields (EMFs); Dr. Gary Johnson, a Senior Managing Scientist in Exponent’s Electrical Engineering and Computer Science practice who modeled the electric and magnetic fields, audible noise, and radio noise from the existing lines and from the Northern Pass Transmission Project; and Douglas Bell, a Senior Principal Consultant and President at Cavanaugh Tocci Associates, Inc., with 25 years of experience evaluating environmental sound and who conducted sound surveys along the proposed Northern Pass route.
The proposed Northern Pass project includes a 158-mile direct current (DC) transmission line that will run from the Canadian border to Franklin, and a 34-mile alternating current (AC) line that will run from a converter station in Franklin to a substation in Deerfield. EMFs are present around any electric power line, whether it carries DC or AC electricity, and today’s experts will discuss how these EMFs relate to the route’s surrounding area.
Key points that will likely be discussed will include:
International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC)
International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP)
International Committee on Electromagnetic Safety (ICES)
National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB)
Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENIHR)
S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
World Health Organization (WHO)
Final hearings on the Northern Pass begin tomorrow, 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 will begin with testimony from Bill Quinlan, the Eversource President of NH Operations, who will discuss the considerable benefits Northern Pass will bring to New Hampshire, including economic development and jobs programs, energy savings, tax revenue, an increase in New Hampshire’s GDP, as well as significant environmental benefits.
Other project details that will be discussed include:
Northern Pass reached another significant milestone yesterday 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. This follows the March 1 announcement by the NH Department of Environmental Services which also recommended approval of the project. 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.
The approval by the NH DOT follows a series of important milestones and achievements for Northern Pass, which include:
The Northern Pass permitting process continues to advance, with final hearings beginning in two weeks, on April 13. The hearings are conducted by the NH Site Evaluation Committee (SEC) and are the last step in the state siting process before the SEC makes its decision on Northern Pass. The final hearings follow the recently completed “discovery phase,” which involved several months of technical sessions.
The final hearings are formal legal proceedings, during which 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. The Counsel for the Public and interveners will also provide witness testimony at this stage. Witnesses for all parties will be subject to cross-examination. The dates of the final hearings are available on the SEC website under the Northern Pass docket.
The commencement of final hearings in April follows a series of important milestones and achievements for Northern Pass, which 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:
An update to the economic analysis of the hydroelectric energy transmitted by Northern Pass shows that the project will reduce wholesale energy costs in New England by more than $600 million annually, and eliminate more than 3 million tons of carbon emissions in the region each year.
The wholesale energy price reductions will ultimately flow to customers as retail energy cost savings. The significant reduction in emissions will help New England states achieve clean air goals.
“…LEI’s modeling update demonstrates that Northern Pass will deliver significant benefits to ratepayers in the form of lower electricity costs, carbon emissions reduction, and a more efficient system…”
(London Economics International Updated Analysis, February 2017)
The study, done by London Economics International (LEI) and filed today with the NH Site Evaluation Committee as part of the project’s ongoing state permitting process, provides an update to a 2015 LEI study that showed similar CO2 emission reductions and average regional economic savings of about $800 million annually.
According to LEI, the change in the estimated annual energy savings since 2015 is due to several factors, including updated projected natural gas prices, lower forecasted customer energy demand, and a modest net increase in supply during the study period from 2020 – 2030. It also reflects changes to rules governing the Forward Capacity Market (FCM), which is administered by ISO-New England, the region’s electric system operator. The FCM provides incentive payments to energy generators through a competitive process under guidelines set annually by ISO-New England. These payments are funded by electricity consumers. Although the size of Northern Pass’ impact in terms of megawatts has not changed since 2015, the total amount paid for capacity will be smaller because of ISO-New England’s 2016 FCM rules. As a result, LEI’s updated study now calculates $600 million in annual savings—a number that fluctuates based on annual FCM parameters.
“…this Updated Analysis shows that even in the face of shifting market conditions due to changes in underlying drivers and evolving market rules, a project like Northern Pass will create substantial wholesale electricity market benefits in the form of lower electricity costs, benefiting consumers across New England. In addition, the Updated Analysis suggests that Northern Pass still produces significant reductions in emissions of CO2 within the New England footprint, supporting many states’ legislated greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals and overall societal initiatives to tackle the global Climate Change problem.”
(Testimony of Julia Frayer, Managing Director, London Economics International, February 2017)
The New Hampshire Supreme Court has ruled that the proposal by Northern Pass to use public highways for underground installation of electric transmission lines is clearly allowed under state law. The decision upholds a previous ruling by the NH Superior Court that dismissed a claim by the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests (Forest Society).
In its decision, the Supreme Court affirmed that the project’s proposal is within the scope of the highway easement, and that the NH Department of Transportation (NHDOT) has the final say on the matter:
“We conclude that use of the Route 3 right-of-way for the installation of an underground high voltage direct current electrical transmission line, with associated facilities, falls squarely within the scope of the public highway easement as a matter of law, and that such use is within the exclusive jurisdiction of the DOT to regulate. Through RSA 231:160 and RSA 231:161, the legislature has definitively found, consistent with our case law, that the use of highway easements for utility transmission lines is a reasonable use of the easement.”
In its November 2015 lawsuit, the Forest Society argued that Northern Pass must seek approval from the Society in order to bury a portion of the line within the public right-of-way next to property it owns, and that burial of a transmission line does not represent proper use of the roadways. In May 2016, the NH Superior Court rejected this claim, saying that the project’s proposed use is “within the scope of the highway easement,” and agreed that the NHDOT, not the Forest Society, has “exclusive jurisdiction over whether to grant the project the necessary permits and licenses.”
As we’ve previously noted, the Forest Society has frequently demanded Northern Pass be buried, yet in this case, had filed this lawsuit to prevent its burial. The Forest Society has also continued to raise the false notion that the use of eminent domain is possible for Northern Pass, when state law clearly prevents it, and the project does not require its use.
Northern Pass is currently in the midst of the New Hampshire siting process and anticipates a final decision by the NH Site Evaluation Committee (SEC) later this year. NHDOT participates in the state permitting process, and a representative from the agency sits on the SEC.
Northern Pass proposes to bury a total of 60 miles of the transmission line along public roadways, including a 52-mile stretch that eliminates visual impacts in the White Mountain National Forest, the Appalachian Trail, and the Franconia Notch area. The federal permitting process also continues and includes a full review by the U.S. Department of Energy.
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.