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.
It’s possible that the Northern Pass, a 186-mile transmission line Public Service of New Hampshire proposed in 2010, might be built over the many objections of the project’s opponents. Its developers hope it can gain state and federal approval and construction can be completed by 2017.
If that does happen would people get used to it, or would it become a permanent scar on the state as opponents fear?
First in a three part series, and a collaboration with New Hampshire Magazine.
While the Northern Pass is one of the most controversial energy proposals in recent New Hampshire history, it is not the first such project to come to the Granite State. Another power line, called Phase II, stretches from Monroe New Hampshire down to the Massachusetts border. Driving through Hopkinton today you can’t miss the three-tower-wide power line corridor that streaks through the town.
Morning Edition Host Rick Ganley: This week the public has a chance to weigh in on the future of the state’s Site Evaluation Committee. The SEC reviews major utility projects, including proposed wind farms and the Northern Pass project.
The concerns of opponents of those projects prompted Governor Hassan to sign Senate Bill 99. It calls for a review of how the SEC works with a report due at the end of December.
This week’s listening sessions and workshops include one tonight in Manchester.
A series of public meetings begin the first week in December to determine what changes, if any, should be made to how the state’s Site Evaluation Committee works, including whether the public should have a decision-making role in approving new utility projects.
The SEC reviews major utility projects, which will include Northern Pass.
Currently the SEC has fifteen members, all from state agencies.
A developer has proposed another transmission project that would link Canadian hydro-power to consumers in Southern New England. As proposed the project would be 150 miles through Vermont, and be entirely underground and underwater.
The transmission line is called the New England Clean Power Link. It would run from Southern Quebec, buried along the bottom of Lake Champlain before turning east for 50 miles to Ludlow, Vermont, where it would plug into the New England grid.