The state committee reviewing Northern Pass has pushed back its deadline to make a decision, but a spokesman for the hydro-electric transmission project tells NHPR, “the end is in sight.”
“To use an overused sports analogy,” Martin Murray says, “We’re in the fourth quarter.”
Others might say it is overtime.
The New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee had planned to make a decision by the end of September.
The SEC has since added 31 hearings on the $1.6 billion project. The new schedule pushes the targeted written decision to March 31.
Murray joined The Exchange with Laura Knoy on Wednesday, as the conversation explored the pros and cons of the project.
Garry Rayno, who covers the regulatory review process for InDepthNH.org, and Sam Evans-Brown, host of Outside/In, discussed the arc of the project and remaining challenges.
One caller said New Hampshire needs the 192-mile transmission line linking to Hydro-Quebec for its energy needs.
Howie Wemyss, general manager of the Mount Washington Auto Road, says the project would hurt tourism.
After an outcry about burying the lines, Northern Pass issued a redesigned route to bury 60 miles of it, roughly between Bethlehem and Ashland.
Another caller said Northern Pass, which is a subsidiary of Eversource Energy, is just using the Granite State for its corporate gain.
The proposed line in New Hampshire stretches from the Canadian border at Pittsburg to Franklin, and then to an existing substation in Deerfield.
The applicant says it will deliver 1,090 megawatts of “clean, affordable energy” from Hydro-Quebec.
The project has stoked controversy since it was first presented in 2010.
Murray says the project will reduce regional power costs by about $600 million, with New Hampshire realizing about $60 million a year.
A decision from the SEC, which reviews, approves, and monitors energy facilities for compliance, is one of several steps in the regulatory process. The U.S. Department of Energy issued a Final Environmental Impact Statement last month.
The SEC review is lengthy. And by design. Part of it is the outpouring of testimony.
Rayno says it is because the Hampshire Legislature a few years ago modified the process to include more time for public input.
“It’s taken a much longer time than anyone ever envisioned,” Rayno says.
Murray says there is no project really comparable to Northern Pass. He says the media should do more to clear up misinformation. Such as, he adds, the claim that the transmission lines will be visible from the top of Mount Washington.
“That’s just not true,” he says.
Jack Savage, with the Society for the Protection of N.H. Forests, said the review process is taking so long because a majority of Granite Staters oppose the project.
Rayno says there is support out there. Some larger businesses have been vocal.
“There is support,” he says, “But there is overwhelming opposition as well.”