House Committee Takes Up Tabled Northern Pass Bills

Aug 6, 2013

A house subcommittee has again started work on three bills inspired by the Northern Pass Transmission project held in committee over the summer. The bills would require developers to bury transmission lines, place them along transportation corridors when feasible, or to not build them if regulators determine there is no public need.

Despite declarations of the chair of the subcommittee – Colebrook Republican Lawrence Rappaport – that the hearing was not about Northern Pass, the proposed transmission line was clearly on the mind of many in attendance. The project came up numerous times, and some in the hearing room sported anti-Northern Pass buttons.

During their first meeting on Tuesday they heard from the deputy commissioner of the DOT, Michael Pillsbury. He told lawmakers it’s hard to know whether it’s feasible to put transmission lines along railway and highway corridors.

“It’s not a simple, ‘ok, go’ and [a right of way is] opened up,” Pillsbury told the committee, “It really comes down to what is the utility, what are the requirements. All those types of specific details get entered in and reviewed.”

George McCluskey from the Public Utilities Commission explained that requiring buried transmission lines would cut profits to the extent that, “you may have the effect of driving the developer away from the project itself.”

Toward the end of the hearing the committee opened the floor, and several opponents of the Northern Pass project, like Nancy Martland of Sugar Hill, stepped forward. Martland pointed to underground transmission projects in neighboring states as evidence that “[burying lines is] possible, it’s doable, other developers are doing it. Definitely at least on both sides of us it’s worked into a business plan that’s successful.”

In coming weeks lawmakers will hear from an industry leader in burying transmission lines, the DES to discuss impacts of burial, and an environmental group that has researched what a full build-out of various renewables and a regional transmission grid could look like.