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.
Northern Pass stands alone as the only project in New England that requires no customer subsidy and will bring clean, low-cost hydro power along with direct and substantial economic benefits to New Hampshire. Northern Pass has a proposed route and a firm agreement with an energy supplier (Hydro Québec) to pay the project costs.
Everyone agrees that New England is in serious need of new sources of base load energy to meet future energy demands. The power grid operator, ISO New England, projects that 8,000 megawatts of generating capacity are at risk of retiring by 2020, and, in just the last month, we’ve seen actual announcements that more than 2,000 megawatts of energy will soon be gone. As a region, the ISO projects we need to construct more than 5,000 megawatts of new generation assets in the coming years to keep the grid running. Northern Pass is a large part of the solution, and yet the region must continue to look for additional new energy sources.
TDI New England, a private transmission line developer, this week announced a proposal to construct a 1,000 megawatt line to connect a yet-to-be determined energy source from Québec to New England. The proposal calls for a line placed underwater for 100 miles through Lake Champlain and then underground for 50 miles through Vermont along an undetermined route.
Instead of putting such a proposal in the perspective of the region’s larger energy challenges, some groups are using the announcement as an opportunity to attack Northern Pass and to mislead the public by making “apples to oranges” comparisons. It is an unfortunate reality that these groups, including the Conservation Law Foundation and the Forest Society, are willing to put their own special interests and fundraising campaigns before the needs of the region.
This new proposal is an interesting concept but it is disingenuous to compare it to Northern Pass. It joins other merchant project trial balloons that may never get off the ground. Northern Pass is farther along compared to this and other conceptual proposals, and is positioned very well to earn required permits and move forward. Since announcing the project three years ago and unveiling our improved route in June of this year, we’ve made significant headway toward clearing regulatory and technical hurdles, and anticipate beginning operations in 2017. There are several other fundamental differences between Northern Pass and this new TDI proposal, including:
We take it as a positive sign that others are proposing solutions to meet the region’s significant energy challenges. All proposals need to be considered, and it is clear that no single “silver bullet” project will address all the region’s challenges at once. Meanwhile, the facts are clear that Northern Pass is a legitimate project with a firm partner, proven technology, a viable route, and will bring direct and substantial economic, energy, and environmental benefits to New Hampshire and New England.
editor’s note: The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests today initiated a fund-raising campaign it says is necessary in order to, in its words “thwart Northern Pass…” Our response:
SPNHF has used this project as a convenient fundraising tool to lock up land and prevent it from being used for economic development and job creation. We see today’s announcement as more of the same. They’ve tried and failed to stop the project. We will continue to work with willing landowners, because New Hampshire and the region need the clean energy, hundreds of jobs and many economic benefits it will deliver to residents for decades to come.
We have responded to previous concerns about the project by removing proposed alternative routes, and we’ve made exceptional progress over the course of the last several months in securing a new route in the North Country that has the support of landowners.
Business groups, as well as labor representatives, have expressed support for the project, citing the hundreds of jobs, reduced energy prices, and significant economic benefits it will bring to New Hampshire.
It was just three years ago that the Forest Society voted to support the construction of new transmission lines in New Hampshire, as a means to import more hydro and wind power from Canada. (See Action 2.6) That vote was part of the New Hampshire Climate Action Plan, which is aimed at reducing emissions of carbon dioxide in New England. Northern Pass is a legitimate response to that recommendation.
Since that vote, New England’s dependence on a single fossil-fuel – natural gas, has grown to an historic 51 percent, posing a significant risk to the reliability of the region’s energy supply. More than ever, projects like the Northern Pass deserve consideration by all the public.
We recognize that the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests opposes the project, as proposed. But, it’s important to separate facts from fiction and, unfortunately, SPNHF has now produced a video with incorrect facts and manipulated images that distort the truth.
In contrast to the claims made in the video, this house, at its closest corner, was built approximately 20 feet from the edge of an existing right of way. The centerline of the proposed power line is an additional 35 feet into the right of way. Therefore, the centerline of the proposed power line would be not less than 55 feet from the home. The structure location may be even further away. We would work collaboratively with owners of properties abutting existing power line rights of way when we propose to locate new structures nearby.
It’s unfortunate that SPNHF clearly photo-shopped a random structure into a photo of a home, based on inaccurate distances and perspectives, distorting reality.
It’s also inaccurate to claim, as SPNHF does in the video, that “…more than 1,000 families are similarly impacted.” Homes can be built right up to the edge of a right of way, if a home builder chooses. In most cases, however, homes and other structures on properties abutting existing power line rights of ways are located a greater distance from the edge than the property cited here.
We understand and respect differing points of view, but we encourage everyone in the debate to deal with facts instead of fiction.
We acknowledge the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests’ intensive effort to raise $850,000 necessary for the purchase of a conservation easement on about 5,800 acres of land surrounding The Balsams resort that was recently sold by the Tillotson Trust to Balsams View LLC. (Balsams View LLC purchased a total of about 7,700 acres, including the 5,800 that are within the conservation easement.)
As a reminder, the Northern Pass project had also offered to purchase the conservation easement, if the sale to the SPNHF did not occur. In addition, the project offered the Trust an additional $2.2 million for a designated utility right of way in the northern tip of The Balsams property, and for a non-contiguous parcel in West Stewartstown.
For our part, we believe that the use of the utility right of way by Northern Pass could co-exist hand-in-hand with the conservation effort, building jobs, ensuring the continuation of a working forest and bringing clean renewable power to New Hampshire and the region. The additional $2.2 million could have been used by the Trust to help meet its objective of providing economic benefit to the North Country.
While Northern Pass had an interest in this specific utility right of way, we are continuing to successfully work with landowners as we consider other routing alternatives. We look forward to soon announcing a new proposed route that has the support of underlying land owners.
Transmission Structures and Corridors on the SPNHF Conserved Lands
Separate from the specific utility right of way that SPNHF will obtain, the Tillotson Trust has retained the right to construct transmission structures and access roads anywhere on the property, including the SPNHF conserved land, in order to connect to wind turbines on two parcels of land, abutting The Balsams, that the Trust has retained for the future construction of wind farms.
As the owner and operator of the transmission system within the state, Public Service of New Hampshire is required by the federal government to ensure that such energy developments are connected to the regional power grid.
A recent example is the connection to the grid of the Granite Reliable project located in New Hampshire’s North Country. (See photo, below.) Each of the 33 turbines atop nearby mountain ridges are 400 feet tall from ground to tip of blade.
In that case, as with the future wind farms at The Balsams, the developer is responsible for constructing the corridors and structures to connect to the existing transmission system; PSNH is responsible for then making the connection.
The sale of The Balsams Resort by the Neil Tillotson Trust to Balsams View LLC has been completed. Northern Pass is pleased that the future of the Balsams Resort is secure and that the new owners are committed to maintaining the 300 jobs and tremendous economic value the Resort brings to the North Country. We look forward to working with them in the future, and wish them well in their efforts to renovate and re-open the resort.
Unrelated to the sale of the hotel, we recently asked the Attorney General to reject the pending and separate sale of a small utility right of way in the northern tip of the property by the Tillotson Trust to the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests. (We did not raise any question about — and we support fully — the conveyance of a conservation easement to the Forest Society.)
Our inquiry to the Attorney General was based on our belief that the project’s use of the utility right of way can co-exist with a conservation easement over the surrounding land, and together provide significant value to the Tillotson Trust that can be redistributed to the residents and communities in the North Country for essential health, social and economic services. We also believe that the project’s use of the utility right of way would have less impact than the Trust’s own transmission easement across the Balsams Resort property for future wind farm development. Northern Pass had previously submitted an offer for use of this utility right of way.
Following our inquiry with the Attorney General, we learned that the Forest Society was only interested in purchasing the conservation easement if the utility right of way was included. In response to the Forest Society’s publicly-stated position and to address the possibility that the conservation easement might be lost, Northern Pass submitted a new offer to the Trust to purchase the conservation easement over the 5,800 acres of land surrounding the resort as well as the utility right of way. We are supportive of efforts to conserve this property as it ensures future generations can enjoy the beauty and recreational opportunities of the land, which is consistent with the vision and work of the Tillotson Trust. This offer would have provided the Trust with more than $3 million to support its charitable activities in the North Country and would ensure the 5,800 acres of land surrounding the resort are conserved.
The Attorney General has since approved the sale of the conservation easement and power line right of way to the Forest Society. Northern Pass is in the process of reviewing the Attorney General’s decision. We are disappointed for the citizens of the North Country who could have benefitted from the much needed services the additional value our offer would have provided.
The Northern Pass project today notified the Neil Tillotson Trust that it is willing to purchase the conservation easement over much of the property of “The Balsams,” if a sale of the easement to The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests (SPNHF) doesn’t occur.
The SPNHF recently said it will not pursue the easement if it cannot also obtain the rights to a utility right-of-way easement across the property as well. In light of SPNHF’s position, and because Northern Pass is committed to the conservation of the Balsams property, we have extended an offer to purchase the conservation easement in addition to the utility easement.
In a letter to the chair of the Trust, Northern Pass said it will purchase the easement for $850,000. The offer also includes provisions of the initial offer from Northern Pass to the Trust to purchase the utility right-of-way for $2 million and provide a $200,000 payment to support medical services at the Colebrook Hospital. In total, the offer will provide more than $3 million to the Tillotson Trust for charitable purposes. If the offer is accepted, Northern Pass would then look to find an appropriate partner committed to conserving the Balsams to hold the conservation easement over the more than 5,600 acres of land.
We believe that the project’s purchase of the utility right-of-way easement can co-exist with a conservation easement over the surrounding land, and together maximize revenue to the Tillotson Trust that can be redistributed to the residents and communities in the area for essential health, social and economic services—in keeping with the Trust’s objectives.
This offer and the project’s previous request to the Attorney General regarding the sale of the utility right of way on the Balsams property to SPNHF has no impact on the completed sale of the Balsams Resort and more than 7,000 acres of land. Northern Pass is pleased that the future of the Balsams Resort is secure and that the new owners are committed to maintaining the 300 jobs and tremendous economic value the resort brings to the North Country. We look forward to working with them in the future, and wish them well in their efforts to renovate and re-open the resort.
This week we asked the Attorney General’s office to reject a portion of a proposed agreement between the Neil Tillotson Trust and the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests.
Specifically, while we wholeheartedly support the proposed conservation easement on about 5,800 acres of land that the Trust recently sold to two area businessmen, we asked the AG to reject that portion of the proposal that grants to the Forest Society an interest in a 300 foot right of way that has been identified for possible use as a corridor for a power line.
We pointed out to the AG that the project provided to the Trust a Letter of Intent to pay the Trust $2.2 million for the right of way.
We believe that the Trust would achieve a much better deal if it granted the conservation easement and accepted our proposal that concerns only the use of the right of way.
We also pointed out that the Trust itself has reserved a permanent easement for the possible construction of transmission lines anywhere on the property, in order to connect to wind farm parcels that are owned by the Trust. (See page 2, Nr. 4. of the Deed.) These parcels are in areas that are much more visible to the public, compared to the right of way Northern Pass is interested in, and would likely have a far greater impact.
WMUR TV9’s “New Hampshire Business” this past weekend included two interviews regarding the project aimed at bringing 1,200 megawatts of hydroelectric energy from Canada into New England.
Host Fred Kocher interviewed Gary Long, PSNH president and COO, who explained the benefits of the project. A separate interview was conducted with Jack Savage, of the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, which is opposed to the project as proposed.
The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests announced yesterday that it opposes the Northern Pass project “…as currently proposed.”
It’s certainly appropriate that an organization like the Society takes an interest in a project as significant as this and, frankly, we’d be surprised if it did not. What’s ironic, though, is that the Northern Pass has come about directly in response to concerns by the Society and other organizations and individuals who have called for more renewable energy and less fossil-fuel energy.
The Northern Pass can produce those results, but only by connecting to a significant source of renewable energy. There is the challenge. In identifying a preliminary preferred route for the new transmission line, project engineers sought to avoid completely or minimize impact with protected and conserved properties.
It hasn’t been easy. By the Society’s reckoning, it holds easements or owns outright almost 24-thousand acres of property in the towns along the project route. By avoiding one property another is impacted – and so on.
Fortunately, the Society and other interested parties appear open to fully discussing our shared goals and how best to achieve them. That opportunity will exist as part of the comprehensive permitting process that is ahead.