In a letter to Department of Energy this week, the project offered its support to the recent request from the state’s Congressional Delegation for a preliminary report of the alternatives DOE will study as part of the federal permitting process.
As noted in the letter, we believe our proposed route is a sensible one that is respectful of the land and its neighbors and that will provide significant benefits to New Hampshire and New England. Various alternatives have been proposed and we believe an evaluation of the merits of these options, along with the economic implications of each, will be helpful as the permitting process moves forward.
The project’s letter to DOE is available in our document library.
The U.S. Department of Energy has been holding a series of public forums this week, called scoping meetings, as part of Northern Pass’ federal permitting process. Two meetings have already been held and the two remaining scoping meetings will be held tonight in Whitefield and tomorrow in Colebrook. These meetings are an important step for the project, but they are also just part of a long process of careful review and scrutiny Northern Pass must undergo before gaining approval.
In October 2010, Northern Pass filed its initial application for a Presidential Permit, which will allow Northern Pass to build a transmission line for the import of Québec hydropower across the Canadian border into the United States. Amendments to the application have been made since then, including one that outlines the new proposed Northern Pass route announced in June.
The DOE will conduct two evaluations, one on environmental impact and another on Northern Pass’ impact on energy reliability. For the Northern Pass, this will include a full Environmental Impact Statement as required by the National Environmental Policy Act. The scoping meetings are focused on gathering information from the public, which will then be used to determine which issues should be studied as the DOE develops its Environmental Impact Statement, and ultimately whether to grant the permit.
The project also submitted an application for a Special Use Permit, which requires specific review of the portion of the proposed line that would travel along an existing 60-year-old utility corridor within the White Mountain National Forest.
Once the environmental analysis and evaluation of the electric reliability criteria is completed, the DOE must obtain a favorable recommendation from the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense before a permit may be issued.
As the Presidential permit process continues, Northern Pass will undergo another rigorous review before the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee. This group of state officials is tasked with ensuring that Northern Pass is in the public’s best interest and that it is designed, built and operated in a manner that will protect and preserve New Hampshire’s high quality of life.
Both the state and federal permitting reviews are well-established methods designed by law to extensively examine new power generation and transmission projects. We hope to see a large number of people participate in the scoping meetings and are eager to keep the conversation going about the benefits Northern Pass will bring New Hampshire.
The Department of Energy (DOE) announced today that it will hold four more public scoping meetings in September. These meetings are in addition to the seven previous public scoping meetings DOE held in 2011. See below for specific dates and locations, as posted on the DOE website:
DOE Issues Amended Notice of Intent
The Department of Energy has issued an amended Notice of Intent for the Northern Pass project announcing additional scoping meetings and the close of scoping. The Department will be holding the following additional scoping meetings:
For additional information, please view the Federal Register notice.
In related news, the project has submitted a revised Special Use Permit (SUP) Application to the U.S. Forest Service. This amendment to the project’s original application, submitted on June 28, 2011, requests authorization to construct the Northern Pass transmission line in portions of the White Mountain National Forest where a right-of-way and transmission lines already exist.
The existing corridor within the WMNF was developed more than 60 years ago in order to supply electricity to areas north of the forest. From the DOE website:
The U.S. Forest Service—White Mountain National Forest, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE)—New England District, and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)—Region 1 (New England) are cooperating agencies in the preparation of the EIS.
The EIS will provide the analysis to support a Forest Service decision on whether to issue a special use permit within the White Mountain National Forest. The responsible official for the Forest Service is the Forest Supervisor for the White Mountain National Forest.
The revised application and accompanying exhibits are available in our document library.
The SB 361 Commission recently adopted its final report, and once again voted to reject controversial recommendations that a majority of its members believed were outside the scope of the Commission.
This follows a vote last month by the Commission members to adopt a draft report authored by the NH State Department of Transportation (NHDOT). That version of the report omitted controversial language from the original draft which had drawn criticism from State officials and members of the business community.
In the final report, the commission voted overwhelmingly against two recommendations:
Members pointed out that both of these recommendations were well outside the mission and scope of the commission. Additionally, we believe these recommendations would result in costly and unintended consequences for New Hampshire consumers and businesses.
The Commission’s findings include input from NHDOT on what possible corridor options currently exist. While the findings state it may be possible to place energy infrastructure in these designated corridors, the commission ultimately could not speak to whether such plans are economically feasible or whether they are technologically and environmentally sound ideas. The Commission also points out that these questions are often “typically site and project-specific.”
We look forward to continued discussions regarding New Hampshire’s energy future. Northern Pass will not only move us toward a renewable energy future, but will also reduce energy costs for customers and increase the diversity of our energy portfolio. We look forward to continuing our work with communities, policymakers, and other stakeholders to address concerns and determine the best path forward.
On Thursday, Oct. 31, 2012, a legislative commission established by Senate Bill 361 (Commission to Study the Feasibility of Establishing Energy Infrastructure Corridors within the Existing Transportation Rights of Way) voted 10-0 to endorse a draft report proposed by the NH State Department of Transportation (NHDOT). The NHDOT version of the report represents a vast improvement over the original draft. The NHDOT version omits controversial language from the original draft that drew criticism from State officials and members of the business community, who warned of the potential for higher electricity prices and government overreach.
Numerous members of the Commission then offered their own criticisms of the report. Specifically, members rejected the following recommendations:
Northern Pass (NPT) appreciates that the Commission strongly rejected the report recommendations listed above. As several members pointed out, those recommendations were beyond the scope of the Commission and threatened broader and costly consequences for New Hampshire consumers and businesses. We support the effort by the Commission to identify potentially viable corridor options for future energy projects. NPT joins state officials and members of the business community in urging the Commission to continue to respect private property rights and avoid overreaching government provisions that will increase bureaucracy and inevitably result in higher electricity costs for New Hampshire citizens.
Many people have expressed concern about the potential visual impacts associated with The Northern Pass project. In response to these concerns, the project team hired LandWorks, a landscape architecture and planning firm, to produce a visual simulation booklet showing what the project will look like from locations where people would potentially see it from. These visual simulations were produced using sophisticated and industry-accepted software and software methodologies.
The goal of the visual simulations is not to make the project look good or bad, but to provide an objective perspective and sampling of what the project will look like from as many different vantage points as makes sense. Visual simulations typically focus on views from public vantage points rather than from individual residences.
For each vantage point included in the booklet, LandWorks provides a “before” image of what the view looks like today, and visual simulations showing what the view would look like with the inclusion of The Northern Pass transmission line using two typical industry designs: a) lattice transmission structures; and b) monopole transmission structures.
Photographs were taken using a 50 to 55mm lens, which registers similar to what the human eye sees. Because the eye acknowledges a 120- to 160-degree “cone of vision,” LandWorks tends to add a little more to the image on the left and right sides to provide a more accurate, panoramic view.
In LandWorks’ experience, these visual simulations tend to look very close to (or exactly the same as) what the project will actually look like from these vantage points once built. Additional visual simulations will be posted on the Northern Pass website as they become available.
Note: There are two versions of the Visual Simulations booklet, each sized for different types of paper. Exact sizes can be found in the 11 x 17 version, which is the full size document. The 8½ x 11 version of the Visual Simulations booklet, though easier to print, has been reduced by 40%, which may impact the perceived scale (i.e. objects may be larger or smaller than they appear).
A couple of notable updates to the website:
We’ve redesigned the website’s Maps page so that it is clearer which towns are on the Preferred or Alternative routes (or in some cases, both). The page now also explains what these terms mean. Lastly, Northwood (Alternative) was added to the list of towns. As always, clicking on a town’s name links to a PDF map.
We’ve also replaced the Filings page with a new Documents page, which will include filings, reports, and other major documents. This includes the recent addendum to the project’s DOE application, as discussed at Monday’s meetings in Pittsburg and Clarksville. There, you’ll also find the border crossing map that was included.