There was movement on energy policy in both chambers of the New Hampshire legislature today. While reforming the approval process for power plants sailed through the House, rules encouraging burial of power lines got hung up in the Senate.
After making a few changes to a Senate version, on a voice vote the New Hampshire house passed changes to how proposed power plants get a permit. That means if the Senate agrees to the House version beginning in July, new projects will need to increase the amount of public outreach they do before submitting applications to be built.
Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin says he stands ready to help New Hampshire find an alternative route for the controversial Northern Pass project. The governor was speaking at an event hosted by the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College.
The US Department of Energy has released a list of the options that it is studying as alternatives to the Northern Pass Transmission Project. Substitutes for the controversial connection to Canadian hydro-power will be part of the Department of Energy’s Environmental Impact Statement.
About 6,400 people, businesses or organizations, with about 68 percent from New Hampshire, filed comments with the US Department of Energy about the controversial Northern Pass project and now the federal agency has issued a summary of the concerns.
The Department of Energy sought the comments as it considers whether to allow Northeast Utilities, the parent of Northern Pass, to bring electric power from Canada.
Lawmakers in the Senate are scheduled to take up a series of much-anticipated energy bills today. There are four energy bills on the docket today, three of which are responses to controversial energy projects.
One would create state-owned rights of way for any new transmission line not needed to keep the lights on as determined by the regional grid operator. If passed developers would have to bury power lines, unless they could prove that isn’t feasible.
The latest legislative proposal that would require power lines be buried had its first hearing Wednesday.
Republican Senator Jeb Bradley has put forward a bill that would require so-called elective electric transmission lines – ones not needed to avoid blackouts – be buried along state owned roads and rail corridors. The bill would lease the right to bury a power line or pipeline, and send all of the revenue to the highway fund.
New Hampshire’s energy community turned out at a Senate hearing on Wednesday to react to a senate bill proposing changes to the Site Evaluation Committee, which approves power plants. The proposed changes include shrinking the SEC to five members, including two public representatives, hiring dedicated support staff, and requiring projects have a net public benefit.
Under pressure from New Hampshire’s congressional delegation, the U.S. Department of Energy says it will disclose which alternatives to the route favored by Northern Pass it plans to study. That is something opponents of the controversial project have been seeking.
Before the Northern Pass project can go forward it must be approved by the DOE. And, the core of that approval is an environmental impact statement. It will focus on the 187-mile route Northern Pass wants to use.
Despite a request by New Hampshire's congressional delegation and the project backer, the U.S. Department of Energy says it can't answer questions about alternative routes for the contested Northern Pass transmission project.
The DOE is preparing an Environmental Impact Study on the proposed $1.4 billion project that would transmit 1,200 megawatts of hydroelectric power from Hydro-Quebec into New England.
The state’s House of Representatives has voted 194-148 to kill a bill that would have established a moratorium on wind farms and new transmission line projects, including Northern Pass.
This vote fell along party lines, with Democrats largely voting against blocking all projects, and Republicans, like Skip Reilly of Hill arguing that now is the time to wait -- for the state to complete its forthcoming energy plan.
"Remember we are elected by our constituents to serve them, not some power company."
Only one representative from the North Country voted Wednesday against a bill that would encourage state regulators to give preference to electric transmission lines that are buried or located along public highways.
Whether or not the Northern Pass transmission line gets the state and federal permits it’s looking for, HydroQuebec is poised to send ever more of its hydro-power south. It’s increasingly clear that New England will need more power soon and with transmission lines are being proposed all around the Northeast, Canadian hydro is likely to play a role.