Some New Hampshire residents recently received a letter from the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests (the Forest Society) asking them to “give generously” to fight the current Northern Pass transmission line project. This campaign aims to raise $475,000 to fund further opposition to the project.
There is inaccurate information about the project that we felt an obligation to clarify so that residents can fully evaluate the facts associated with Northern Pass.
This recent fundraising letter misrepresents the actual Northern Pass route and leaves out important details about the project:
While we are disappointed that the public is receiving inaccurate information about this important clean energy project, we appreciate the opportunity to correct these misrepresentations via our website, Facebook page, and the many face-to-face meetings we are having across New Hampshire. A comprehensive public permitting process is underway at the federal level, and a state process will soon begin here in New Hampshire. Both of these review processes will consider the facts associated with the proposed project, solicit public input, and determine whether the Northern Pass project satisfies the siting requirements outlined by the Department of Energy and the New Hampshire siting laws governing new energy projects.
For more than 200 years, the Minot family has lived and worked on a 450-acre farm just north of the White Mountains National Forest. Its rolling hills and freshly mowed fields are dotted with cows. The large red barn, white farmhouse, and swift brook running through the heart of the farm are quintessential rural New England.
“The land is very important to us,” said farm owner William Minot. “It’s the reason we do this. It’s been here all my life, for several generations, and it’s our goal to keep it that way as long as we can.”
Minot and his family grow crops and hay, run a dairy farm and produce maple syrup. Much of this work is done beneath or within view of high-powered electrical transmissions lines that have stood on the farm for decades. Minot said these lines have had little impact on his family business. To him, they are just another part of the landscape.
“Never had a bit of a problem with them,” said Minot. “I could look through those lines and I wouldn’t even see them. They’ve always been there. I kind of like to have the electricity work, so I figure we need to move a little juice through here.”
We visited the Minot Farm earlier this year to get Minot’s take on the power lines. In this video, you’ll see the scenic Minot Farm and hear about the power line’s benefits, including electricity for families and businesses like his. The video also shows that transmission lines, like those proposed by Northern Pass, can exist in harmony with the surrounding landscape.
As the New Year approaches, we are pleased to report that we have identified a new route in the North Country that we will submit to the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Commission in the future for consideration and review. We are in the process of finalizing this new proposal and will soon be prepared to announce its specific details. This proposal was created in consideration of concerns raised regarding potential view impacts and private property issues. In response to the feedback we received, we have spent the past year identifying routing options that would locate the line on land that we own or that has easements we have obtained from willing sellers, and positions the line in a manner that reduces potential view shed impacts as much as possible.
We also recognize that while we are communicating with local citizens, stakeholders and public officials across New Hampshire, there is still much that can be done. We believe this communication and dialogue is critical to the ultimate success of the new route and the project overall and felt it was necessary to take some additional time to continue these efforts before we publicly announce the new routing proposal.
Some notable project improvements thus far include the improved structure design along the White Mountain National Forest portion of the route, enabling the project to reduce structure heights to approximately 85 feet, with no expansion of the existing right of way. Additionally, structures along the new right-of-way portion of the route will also be approximately 85 feet.
We are appreciative of the positive support we have received from all across the state, and are very proud to have the full endorsement of the two largest Chambers of Commerce in New Hampshire (Manchester and Nashua). Our recent jobs meetings in Coös County were an enormous success, and we look forward to resuming those meetings in the new year, along with informational outreach meetings across the state.
We are optimistic that our new routing proposal addresses the potential view shed and private property concerns that have been raised, and will enable us to move forward with the rigorous state and federal permitting processes. Those proceedings will serve as inclusive forums for the continued evolution of the project, providing a true measure and analysis of the benefits and impacts of the Northern Pass, as well as the opportunity for project improvements to be recommended and incorporated.
More than 20 Miles of Project’s Corridor Secured in Deal with Wagner Forest Management
The Coös County Democrat is reporting today that the project has finalized a lease agreement with Wagner Forest Management related to the project’s ongoing efforts to secure a new route.
We can confirm the accuracy of this report and that the project has finalized a major land agreement with Wagner as part of its efforts to optimize route options through northern New Hampshire. This agreement can support more than 20 miles of the project’s corridor through the eastern portion of northern Coös County.
PSNH President and Chief Operating Officer Gary Long offered the following comment on the agreement:
“Over the past year, we’ve made steady progress in securing the land needed for a new route by working with willing landowners. Finalizing this agreement is a huge step for the project and brings us closer to our goal of delivering clean, low-cost hydropower to the region’s energy grid while providing New Hampshire with hundreds of new jobs and millions in new tax revenue. This project not only brings significant economic benefits to our state, but will also have a tremendous environmental impact as well by removing 5 million tons of carbon from our atmosphere. I’d like to thank Wagner Forest Management for their willingness to help move this incredible project for our state and region forward, while still preserving this property for sustainable forestry.”
Wagner Forest Management, based in Lyme, NH is a forest management and investment organization that manages 2.7 million acres of forest in northeastern United States and eastern Canada. Wagner President and Chief Executive Officer Thomas Colgan commented:
“We are pleased this agreement will help bring a major new source of clean, renewable energy into New England in a way that complements our core forest management business.”
With 140 miles of existing PSNH right-of-way already identified for use by the project, Northern Pass has been focused on securing land north of Groveton, NH to the Canadian border for the remaining 40 miles of the project. Following the completion of land or easement acquisition, Northern Pass will expand and intensify its community outreach efforts and file an amended Presidential Permit application with the Department of Energy. Before beginning construction, Northern Pass must complete a rigorous federal and state permitting process, including approvals from the Department of Energy, U.S. Forest Service, and New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee.
Northeast Utilities (NU), the parent company of Northern Pass Transmission LLC, today announced that the project has acquired, or has under agreement, about 99 percent of the property necessary to announce a new proposed route; and, that the project team expects to amend its permit application at the U.S. Department of Energy by the end of the year and announce a new proposed route in the North Country.
LandWorks, an independent firm skilled in landscape study, is working on the development of a visual impact analysis which is a necessary component of the project’s permitting process.
The firm has recently authored a document describing how that analysis will be produced.
In related news, the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC), which has previously stated that it is opposed to The Northern Pass project, has produced a document critical of the work that is still to be done by LandWorks. Unfortunately, in an attempt to stop a clean energy project that will bring much needed jobs and low-cost power to New Hampshire, the club has chosen to misrepresent the actual process for evaluating potential view impacts.
What AMC is calling its “visual impact assessment” is, in fact, a deeply flawed document written by club staff with no apparent qualifications or experience conducting a professional visual impact assessment.
Northeast Utilities executives today expressed confidence that the Northern Pass project is on track and moving forward.
In a call with financial analysts, NU noted that significant progress has been made working with landowners to identify a new route north of Groveton, and that a filing with federal regulators is expected by the end of the year.
The project plans to increase and intensify its community outreach process to complement that filing.
Over the course of the project, some concern has been expressed over the potential impact transmission lines may have on property values.
A project journal post from last July discussed this issue in detail and included a link to a July 24th article in the Concord Monitor focusing on the issue. The project journal post and article reference two studies Northern Pass commissioned to look at the property value impact issue.
The first was a preliminary study of the impact of an existing high voltage transmission line in New Hampshire on property values in the towns of Littleton and Deerfield by Brian C. Underwood, CRE of B.C. Underwood Real Estate Counseling & Appraisal.
The second was a review of major studies of the impact of high voltage transmission lines on property values by Russell Thibeault of Applied Economic Research
We have also previously referenced a 2008 study by James Chalmers Ph.D., an economist and real estate appraiser, that was published in a peer reviewed journal that analyzed whether high-voltage transmission lines affected the value of residential properties located in two New England states.
In each case, these studies have arrived at the same general conclusions: the presence of high voltage transmission lines statistically has little to no effect on the value of neighboring properties.
Dr. Chalmers recently authored a study (full report here; summary report here) looking at the effect of an existing high voltage transmission line on property values in Montana. Montana has unique combinations of terrain, vegetative cover and land use patterns compared to the context in which most of the existing research on property value effects has been carried out. In addition, the relevant lands in Montana are characterized by a wide variety of agricultural, recreational and residential property types with relatively few sales. The low number of sales led Dr. Chalmers to pursue a case study approach.
The Montana study focuses on 57 case studies encompassing seven property types: three agricultural, two recreational residential subdivisions and two large acreage recreational tracts. The Montana study cautions that conclusions with respect to a particular property always have to be based on the attributes that drive the value of that property and the way in which they may or may not be affected by the transmission line. With respect to the Montana case study properties, Dr. Chalmers observed that property values appear to be more immune to any effect if the use of the subject property is more diversified beyond pure residential, if the property is larger, and if there are fewer substitute properties on the market that are not situated near transmission lines. He also observed that the value of undeveloped lots in residential subdivisions (recreationally oriented) with limited flexibility in the siting of improvements and for which there were ample substitutes on the market that were not situated near transmission lines were less immune.
This same case study approach was applied in the previously cited Underwood study and it will be interesting to see how the New Hampshire findings compare to the Montana research given the differences between northern New England and the Rocky Mountain States. Like Chalmers, the methodology employed by the Underwood study was to identify an existing transmission line and analyze the assessment data and sale prices of properties that abut the line compared to similar properties not affected by the line. From the Underwood study summary:
“…Based on the preliminary analysis contained herein, there is no market evidence in either Deerfield or Littleton that would indicate diminution of property value due to high voltage transmission lines…”
2012-05-29: This post was updated to better reflect the project’s perspective.