Supporters, Critics Show Up in Force as N.H. Begins Northern Pass Deliberations

Jan 30, 2018

Credit Annie Ropeik for NHPR

UPDATE:  New Hampshire regulators began final discussions Tuesday on whether to grant a permit to the Northern Pass transmission line. 

State officials and public representatives at the Site Evaluation Committee in Concord will meet 12 times between now and Feb. 23.

They have to decide, by revisiting months of testimony and reams of evidence, if Northern Pass passes certain tests -- like, does the developer, Eversource, have the financial and technical ability to complete the 192-mile transmission line? Generally, the SEC agreed that they do.

"Things get harder from here, folks," Martin Honigberg said.

Honigberg, chair of the SEC, was making an aside to the couple hundred stakeholders, lawyers, opponents and supporters of the proposal who came out to listen on the first day of deliberations. Union electrician Dave Hobart, from Hillsborough, would get to build the power line. "I understand people don't believe it's part of New Hampshire, but it all - the grid affects everybody."

But Lisa Cutler, from Easton, says the costs to New Hampshire outweigh any short-term or regional benefits.

"It's not necessary, it's for-profit, it's not in the public's interest, the public has demonstrated that they don't want it," she says.

An SEC permit or conditional approval is the last thing Northern Pass needs to start construction. Eversource wants it done by the end of 2020, to meet requirements of a new deal to sell the Canadian hydropower from the line to Massachusetts.

----------(An earlier version of this story is below here...)

Deliberations on Northern Pass are underway at the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee.

They're discussing Eversource's 192-mile transmission line before an audience of a couple hundred lawyers, stakeholders, supporters, and protesters.

SEC chair Martin Honigberg opened the proceedings this way:

"We are going to say things to make arguments, to test arguments, things we may or may not believe. ... I'm going to ask you not to react as you would at a basketball game, because that's not what you're at right now."

Editors' note: Bookmark this page and check back for updates on this developing story.

The committee has so far generally agreed that Eversource has the financial and technical ability to complete the project.

That's one of four criteria for approval. The committee will spend the next four weeks discussing others, including impacts to the public good, regional development and the environment.

Then, in late February, they'll decide whether to issue a permit, conditions, or denial. Whatever the outcome, an appeal - potentially to the state Supreme Court - is likely.