Hydro Quebec recently responded to a study commissioned by the Conservation Law Foundation challenging the amount of carbon (CO2) emissions that may be reduced as a result of The Northern Pass offsetting energy produced by the burning of fossil fuels.
From the HQ response:
The facts on hydropower emissions, using a life-cycle analysis approach over a period of 100 years, are actually quite simple. Québec hydropower emissions are:
•similar to those from wind power
•only a quarter of those from photovoltaic solar facilities
•40 times less than those from a gas-fired power plant
•about 100 times less than those from a coal-fired plant.
The Plan’s recommended actions include the importation of hydro power from Quebec; a project like The Northern Pass.
“…The Task Force recommends that New Hampshire strive to
achieve a long-term reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of
80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050…”
Is it any wonder that the New Hampshire Climate Change Policy Task Force recommended 67 separate actions as a means toward achieving its aggressive goal to significantly reduce emissions of carbon? The fact is that there is no one single solution to the challenge.
The Plan’s recommendations run the gamut – from honing energy efficiency programs, to promoting stricter fuel economy standards.
One action of the 67 is particularly relevant to The Northern Pass project:
Enable Importation of Canadian Hydro and Wind Generation
“…To the extent that it reduces or does not raise electricity rates to the consumer, high voltage transmission lines should be built to import clean power generated from Canadian hydro and wind sources as a complementary policy to developing non-CO2-emitting generation in New Hampshire. Canada is developing vast new hydro and wind generation resources, which are greater than their local needs. This creates an opportunity for New Hampshire and the entire Northeast to obtain clean power…”
The fact is, there is little debate in New Hampshire or elsewhere on whether or not hydropower from Canada will result in reduced carbon emissions. It will. The challenge is over how to import such energy; how to transmit that low carbon energy in a manner that makes sense from both an economic and engineering perspective – and, that also is respectful of New Hampshire’s environment and natural landscape.
That is why we found it surprising that the Conservation Law Foundation would expend resources to purchase a study challenging the total carbon reduction that may be achieved when The Northern Pass is complete.
It is ironic, too, in that the developers of the CLF study, Synapse Energy, is the same firm that touted a similar hydropower project as a replacement for the energy produced by a nuclear power plant – which emits zero carbon:
“…(T)he Champlain Hudson Power Express … would connect Quebec to New York City. It will bring a significant amount of renewable generation directly to New York City…”
Indian Point Energy Center Nuclear Plant Retirement Analysis
Synapse Energy Economics, Inc, Oct. 2011
We want to assure the CLF that we share its interest and commitment to protecting and improving New England’s environment. In keeping with the NH Climate Action Plan, we believe that The Northern Pass can be an effective part of a comprehensive overall strategy to reduce emissions of carbon.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and Northern Pass last week entered into a memorandum of understanding with a new team of environmental consultants to lead the environmental impact statement process for the project as required by the National Environmental Policy Act .
The SE Group will lead an expert team of consultants. The SE Group has been involved in the preparation of hundreds of NEPA documents over a period of more than 30 years. Supporting the SE Group will be Ecology and Environment, Inc and Lucinda Low Swartz.
Ecology and Environment, Inc. brings 40 years of experience in the environmental review of transmission and other large, linear projects. Lucinda Low Swartz is a former Deputy General Counsel of the Counsel on Environmental Quality and is a nationally recognized expert on NEPA compliance.
The SE Group was selected as part of a through search process that included identifying candidates with no current or prior activity that might be deemed a conflict of interest. The SE Group and its team are expected to commence work promptly.
The project today asked the US Dept of Energy to end the role of Normandeau Associates as the DOE’s Environmental Impact Statement contractor and to terminate the Memorandum of Understanding that outlined that role.
In it’s letter to the DOE, the project acknowledged some public expressions of concern regarding the use of Normandeau in developing a single body of environmental data for both the federal EIS process and the state permitting process. The project had responded to those concerns in a February 16th letter to the DOE, and said today that “…(w)hile we do not believe that the concerns … are well-founded, we … have concluded that it is desirable to terminate … so that the EIS can be prepared free of the public concerns that have been voiced…”
The project also requested DOE’s assistance in promptly identifying and transitioning to a new EIS contractor.
In this video, Tom True, senior project manager for Coler & Colantonio, discusses the process of gathering environmental data for The Northern Pass project. This is done only after permission is received from landowners along the proposed route of the new transmission line. The data differs depending on the season, so three or four visits to a property may be required over the course of a year or two.
Respect for property owners’ privacy is of the utmost concern. Owners are notified two to three weeks in advance of a visit, and those gathering the data take care to leave the property in a safe and respectful condition. Additionally, by granting the right to gather data, property owners do not give up any other property rights—the right of access is to gather data only.
Wildlife biologists, wetland ecologists, archaeologists … Up to 60 experts in a variety of fields have been engaged in a significant data collection effort that will provide vital information to federal and state agencies tasked with evaluating The Northern Pass project.
Coordinated by Normandeau Associates, an environmental consulting firm out of Bedford, NH, the team of scientists has been focused on sections of the project’s preliminary preferred route that follow existing rights of way. With permission from individual landowners, the team is now beginning to collect data on properties where expanded or new rights of way may be needed. Experts are identifying and logging information such as the presence of certain plants and animals, wetlands, wildlife habitats, and areas of archaeological and/or historic sensitivity.
Along with public comments and information available from state and federal agencies, these data will be used to help produce the Department of Energy’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), which is required as part of a federal and state review process. Data collected by Normandeau will also be used to help avoid and minimize environmental impacts along the proposed route.
“There will be a very thoughtful and careful evaluation of environmental impacts and alternatives associated with this project,” said Bob Varney, senior vice president at Normandeau. “Field staff have been walking the existing rights of way, recording and mapping resources along the way.”
Burns & McDonnell, the firm hired by Northern Pass Transmission to conduct the preliminary routing and design studies for the project, relied primarily on information available from non-governmental organizations and state and federal agencies to help evaluate numerous alternative routes, and to avoid/minimize impacts in determining the project’s preliminary preferred route.
Normandeau scientists are picking up where they left off, using this information as a starting point for the collection of field data that will provide even greater detail about potential environmental impacts. Part of Normandeau’s mission is the mapping of wetlands and other sensitive resources.
“Everyone needs to know exactly where these resources are so that the project can try to avoid them, if possible,” said Varney. “The GIS data from Burns & McDonnell is downloaded into GPS units for our field personnel, so they know exactly where the edges of the rights of way are located. The GPS units allow us to be very precise in evaluating our study corridors.”
Normandeau scientists will return to the field in the coming months to collect information that is seasonally dependent, such as the presence of certain animal tracks and vernal pools. According to Varney, it is essential for the scientists to provide a complete and comprehensive view of all potential impacts associated with the project.