Faced with strong, statewide opposition officials from Northern Pass say they are reworking parts of their plan, including finding a better route through the North Country. NHPR’s Chris Jensen reports.
NorthernPass officials say they want to change some important parts of their plan to bring 1,200 megawatts of hydro-electric power from Canada.
Their possible changes include finding a new route between Canada and Groveton, one that will calm the furor in the North Country.
Last month at least 2,300 people attended seven public hearings on the project.
And except for a few who spoke about the employment possibilities, most of those who attended expressed strong opposition.
Senator Kelly Ayotte and Rep. Charles Bass have also come out against the project while Sen. Jeanne Shaheen has expressed concern.
“Northern Pass is clearly feeling the ground moving beneath them on this project.”
That’s Christophe Courchesne.
He is a lawyer with the Conservation Law Foundation, which is opposing the project.
Indeed Northern Pass admits the opposition made it re-consider.
Martin Murray is a spokesman for Public Service of New Hampshire which is involved in the project.
“We understand our current proposal is not acceptable.”
In a new filing with the Department of Energy Northern Pass asked for 60 days to try and find a new route north of Groveton.
PSNH’s Martin Murray:
“Well, we’re optimistic that in the North Country we will be able to determine a route that does have the support of landowners and of the local communities and minimizes any impact.”
But Murray says that will still require cutting a new right of way.
Northern Pass also wants to withdraw the five alternate routes included in the original plan.
From a political, practical standpoint that could reduce opposition from people who are no longer concerned it could end up in their backyard.
What isn’t changing is the route south of Groveton.
It would follow the existing right of way.
That would include passing Littleton and crossing the White Mountain National Forest onto to Franklin and eventually Deerfield.
Northern Pass says building that line would provide about 1,200 construction jobs over three years.
In the most recent filing Northern Pass also addressed three alternatives raised by critics.
One was why the lines can’t be laid in the Connecticut River?
Northern Pass basically said the river is too shallow for the equipment needed to lay the cable.
Another is why the lines can’t be buried?
Northern Pass said that requires heavy equipment that would impractical to move into the area and it would cost too much.
The third is why the power can’t be paired up with a project from Canada that runs through New York State.
Northern Pass said that would send power into New York instead of New Hampshire and New England.
The Conservation Law Foundation’s Courchesne says the Northern Pass request is a mixed bag.
“Northern Pass seems to be digging in its heels and dismissing some of the alternatives that we think need to be considered very carefully.”
That includes the alternatives such as burying the power lines.
“On the other hand the filing also says they are taking a step back and looking for alternative routes in the North Country and they want more time to do that.”
The Northern Pass request to the DOE is unusual.
Typically utilities don’t ask to modify a plan after it has been submitted and public hearings have been held.
It is not clear how long it could take for the agency to act.