N.H. Congressional Delegation Questions DOE About Northern Pass Route

Aug 19, 2013

New Hampshire’s congressional delegation is asking the U.S. Department of Energy whether the federal agency’s evaluation of the Northern Pass Transmission project can proceed if Northern Pass doesn’t have permission to use some segments of its new route.

For the project to move ahead the D.O.E. must give a Presidential Permit allowing the hydro-electric power to be brought across the border from Canada.

The letter was sent by Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R); Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D); Rep. Ann McLane Kuster (D) and Carol Shea-Porter (D).

It refers to the amended route Northern Pass filed with the Department of Energy in July.

The most significant change was a new section through northern Coos County. It includes burying about eight miles of transmission lines and a new crossing of the White Mountain National Forest near Stark.

The August 16th letter asks whether Northern Pass must demonstrate “that it has the legal capacity to construct the project” before the Department of Energy continues its evaluation.

The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests says it owns either the land or has conservation easements that would block Northern Pass from burying those lines along portions of a state and county road.

The White Mountain National Forest also has yet to give its permission.

Northern Pass officials have expressed confidence about being able to use the new route.

When the amended route was announced Gary Long, then president of Public Service of New Hampshire said: “We now have a complete route. We now can get from the Canadian border to the New England grid.”

But it isn’t clear whether the objections of The Forest Society can be overcome without a court fight that could delay the project.

A spokeswoman for the DOE could not be reached immediately for comment.

However, the original route also included sections for which Northern Pass did not have permission to use. And, the DOE evaluation process was underway when Northern Pass withdrew that route and said it would look for one that was more acceptable in the North Country.

In a second letter sent on August 16th to the U.S. Department of Agriculture the New Hampshire delegation voiced its concern over a section of the amended route that mentions as an alternative crossing about 100 feet of the Connecticut Lakes Headwaters conservation area.

“We do not believe that such a use of this land is permitted,” the letter says.

The letter was sent to the Department of Agriculture because some federal funds were used to establish the conservation area.

Northern Pass officials have said they only included crossing the conservation area because the DOE requires any alternatives to be noted.