After some North Country residents complained that U.S. Department of Energy contractors working on the Northern Pass project are trespassing on their land, Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Kelly Ayotte have sent a letter to the federal Department of Energy looking into it.
“Recently, several landowners in Grafton County, NH have contacted our offices to express their concern that DOE contractors are using pre-existing easements held by the Public Service Company of New Hampshire (PSNH) to enter their property to conduct EIS activities on behalf of Northern Pass,” the March 11 letter says.
The contractors were hired to prepare an environmental impact statement, a crucial part of the Department of Energy’s decision whether to grant a Presidential Permit allowing Northern Pass to bring energy into the United States from Canada.
One question being explored by Shaheen and Ayotte is whether PSNH can give the DOE employees permission to work on the PSNH rights-of-way on what is otherwise private property.
“While PSNH granted such permission to the DOE contractors, our constituents question whether work related to preparing an EIS goes beyond the scope of the easements held by PSNH,” the letter continues.
The senators also ask whether such permission "is subject to official approval by the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission."
The letter also addresses a second issue brought up by some constituents: Why, since the Northern Pass project does not have a completed route filed with DOE, is such environmental work being conducted?
Previously the DOE said the project was on hold until Northern Pass found a new route through the North Country. Northern Pass has yet to file such a plan.
Shaheen and Ayotte wrote that the issues “illustrate the need for DOE to provide clear guidance and reasoning for any actions the agency and its contractors take related to this application process."
Shaheen and Ayotte have previously questioned the DOE about other issues involving Northern Pass, in particular whether the selection of those environmental consultants was influenced by Northern Pass.
Agency officials have responded they acted appropriately, apparently concluding the matter.