Northern Pass

About 200 people gathered Wednesday night in Plymouth for public hearing held by a state commission studying whether high-power electric lines such as those proposed by Northern Pass should be buried.

NHPR’s Chris Jensen reports.

The commission’s goals include investigating whether it is feasible to bury utility lines on existing state rights-of-way, such as highways.

And the message to the commission from many of those who spoke was that the commission needs to keep working to develop a well-reasoned policy for new utility projects.

Chris Jensen for NHPR

A complaint by Northern Pass against James Walker, a real estate appraiser from the North Country, has been settled.

NHPR’s Chris Jensen reports.

James Walker, of Franconia, has agreed to pay a fine to settle a complaint Northern Pass filed with the state’s Real Estate Appraiser Board.  

Northern Pass complained after Walker told a Dalton couple that the project’s electrical towers would reduce the value of their 135 acres by 63 percent.

Northern Pass challenged Walker’s methods, saying the project may have been unfairly harmed.

In August the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests said it hoped to raise $2.5 million by October 31st to help it block the Northern Pass project in the North Country.

But it won’t make that fundraising deadline.

NHPR’s Chris Jensen reports.

With donations totaling almost $869,000  the Forest Society has fallen about $1.6 million short of its goal.

Nine organizations have joined the Conservation Law Foundation in asking that the U.S. Department of Energy fire the firms selected to conduct an environmental impact statement on the Northern Pass project because of a conflict-of-interest.

NHPR’s Chris Jensen reports.

Earlier this month the Conservation Law Foundation released emails it forced the  Department of Energy to hand over under the Freedom of Information Act.

The head of Sierra Club Canada says Hydro-Quebec power can’t be considered green. He was in Plymouth Tuesday night. NHPR’s Chris Jensen was there and has this report.

John Bennett is the executive director of Sierra Club Canada. He’s been watching and fighting big hydro-electric dam projects in Canada for decades.

And he told about 100 people at Plymouth State University – including opponents of the Northern Pass project – that the electricity Hydro-Quebec produces by flooding huge areas is not friendly to the environment.

A prominent Canadian environmentalist says opposition to the Northern Pass project has not generated widespread coverage in Canada. The head of the Sierra Club Canada spoke at Plymouth State University Tuesday night.

NHPR’s Chris Jensen reports.

John Bennett, the executive director of the Sierra Club Canada, disappointed a group of about 100 Northern Pass opponents when he told them their efforts have received little media attention in Canada.

“It may be showing up in some of the Quebec press but it is not showing up in the national press in Canada.”

The U.S. Department of Energy did nothing wrong in hiring three consultants recommended by Northern Pass, said a spokeswoman for the agency.

Wednesday the Conservation Law Foundation said documents it obtained through the Freedom of Information Act showed a lawyer for Northern Pass recommended the firms to conduct a crucial environmental impact statement.

And the agency wrongly hired them.

The environmental impact statement is a pivotal part of the agency’s consideration of whether to grant Northern Pass a Presidential Permit.

The Conservation Law Foundation says the U.S. Department of Energy made a serious mistake by again allowing Northern Pass to help pick the consultants responsible for the crucial environmental impact statement.

“The concern is that the integrity of the federal review is at great risk,” Christophe Courchesne, a lawyer at the foundation, said Wednesday.

The DOE did not respond to the issue raised by the foundation.

A Northern Pass spokesman said Saturday that the project has 99 percent of the land it needs for the new route through Coos, clarifying remarks made Friday by a company executive.

During a conference call with analysts Friday Lee Olivier, an official with Northeast Utilities, said:

“I am pleased to say that we have about 99 percent of that 140-mile right-of-way right now either acquired or we have under agreement. The last essentially one percent we are working through the final details.”

Despite opposition, the Northern Pass project is doing well, according to company officials.

Chris Jensen for NHPR

A new study by the Appalachian Mountain Club says the towers for the Northern Pass hydro-electric project would “visually impact” about 95,000 acres in the state.

That includes about 3,000 acres in the White Mountain National Forest and 9,000 acres around Concord, the report says.

In all 23 towns from Whitefield south to Deerfield would be affected by the towers, the study said.

During last week’s primary Coos County Commissioner Bing Judd lost his bid for re-election by five votes.

Today (Monday) there was a recount in Concord.

NHPR’s Chris Jensen has the results.

Bing Judd, who has been a Coos County Commissioner since 1997, has lost that position.

In a recount today in Concord Judd lost by seven votes.

599 to 592.

Originally Judd lost by five votes, prompting him to ask for the recount.

Judd is from Pittsburg – where he lost to Samson.

Samson from Stewartstown.

Chris Jensen for NHPR

An unusual and important race in the North County will be decided on Tuesday.

It’s the political future of Bing Judd, a longtime Coos County Commissioner and one of the best-known figures in the region.

NHPR’s Chris Jensen reports.

For the first time in more than a decade Coos County Commissioner Burnham “Bing” Judd is being challenged for the commissioner’s spot he’s held since being appointed by a court in 1997.

Chris Jensen for NHPR

Among the many issues facing gubernatorial candidates this year is the Northern Pass project.

During the last race for governor two years ago, the Northern Pass project made only a brief appearance.

Chris Jensen for NHPR

In between the picnics and end-of-summer festivities a series of protests against the Northern Pass hydro-electric project were held throughout the state  during the holiday.

NHPR’s Chris Jensen reports…

Easton was the site of one of a dozen or so protests from Manchester to Colebrook on Saturday.

Just under 100 people gathered on Gingerbread Lane along an existing right-of-way where the Northern Pass towers would cut through the tiny North Country town before heading south to cross the White Mountain National Forest.

The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests says it has reached deals with several land owners in Coos it believes will block the Northern Pass hydro-electric project.

But Northern Pass says it plans to keep working on the $1.1 billion dollar project.

NHPR’s Chris Jensen reports.

The Forest Society says it has tentative conservation easements with land owners in Coos that would keep the controversial hydro-electric project from finding a crucial route south from Canada.

Officials for the Northern Pass hydro-electric project say they plan to have their new route through Northern New Hampshire finished this fall.

NHPR’s Chris Jensen reports.

Northern Pass is making progress buying land for its new route through northern Coos and still hopes to file that plan with the U.S. Department of Energy by the end of the year, says Leon Olivier, an official with Northeast Utilities, which is behind the Northern Pass project.

Chris Jensen for NHPR

The decisions on whether the controversial Northern Pass hydro-electric project goes ahead will be made by state and federal agencies. But a single person will make a crucial decision.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Energy says the names of people who commented - for and against the Northern Pass project – were inadvertently removed from the agency web site.

Originally most of the 1,700 people who commented had their names and towns included.

But recently that information was removed, replaced with a note saying:

“The comment information presented below has had the personal information obfuscated for privacy as requested by the original author.”

Headlines have quieted down on the Hydro-power project called Northern Pass, but efforts to continue and thwart the project are ongoing.  A new study questions the need for Northern Pass’s  hydropower, given low natural gas prices. Meanwhile, there’s been activity  on land purchases in the North Country that could connect the dots for the project’s final route. We will look at that latest news around Northern Pass.

Guests

A group of power providers that would compete with the Northern Pass says the project can’t make money without some kind of renewable energy, government subsidy, an assertion  Northern Pass disputes.

NHPR’s Chris Jensen reports.

 

A group of New England power generators is worried Northern Pass will try to get federal or state subsidies by persuading government officials to declare its electricity is renewable.

Such hydro-electric power is not currently eligible for subsidies.

The extremely low prices for natural gas – which can be used to generate electricity - have some  opponents  of Northern Pass wondering whether Hydro-Quebec  might reconsider the project. But a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology says that’s unlikely.

Utility Merger Could Impact Northern Pass

Apr 10, 2012

After 18 months of federal and state review, Northeast Utilities has completed a $5-billion purchase of Boston-based NStar. The deal makes PSNH’s parent company the largest utility in New England.

During a conference call, CEO Tom May said the acquisition would help his company pursue the Northern Pass project.

"The new NU will, because of the financial strength of the combined companies, actually have credit rating upgrades, which should make it a lot easier to finance this project," said May.

Photo: Chris Jensen

Much of the battle over the Northern Pass hydro-electric project has focused on cutting a new route through the forests of the North Country.

Northern Pass intends to use 140 miles of existing right of way for much of the remainder of the project.

That may not be as easy as it sounds.

NHPR's Chris Jensen reports.

 

It takes maybe five minutes – including crossing a large brook on a narrow board – for Kris Pastoriza to reach the right-of-way that cuts through her wooded land in Easton.

Looking at day-to-day coverage of Northern Pass, it tends to (unsurprisingly) focus on the New Hampshire perspective.  Will the project provide a much-needed boost to the North Country economy, or just create a spot of temp work?  What will the project do to land values?  Who’s selling their land, who’s holding fa

Chris Jensen for NHPR

Two of three North Country towns yesterday approved an ordinance designed to fight the Northern Pass project by trying to strip corporations of their power.

Lancaster, Sugar Hill and Easton all had the same idea: An ordinance that would assert a town’s rights over those of corporations.

The idea is to prevent large corporations – such as those behind the Northern Pass project – from using the legal muscle given them by U.S. Supreme Court decisions.

Hiking for the Cause

Feb 15, 2012
Larissa Dannis

Opposition to the Northern Pass Project has inspired lawn signs, bumper stickers and even legislation.   Avid hiker Larisa Dannis has taken her protest of the proposed 180 mile transmission line through New Hampshire’s North Country to the top. 

Chris Jensen for NHPR

Town meetings begin next month.

One issue some towns are looking at is a radical new tactic ultimately designed to challenge the legal power of corporations.

Opponents of the Northern Pass hydroelectric project are at the forefront of the move.

NHPR’s Chris Jensen reports.

 

Northern Pass opponents have won what they see they see as a victory in their fight against the huge hydro-electric project.

Lynch On Northern Pass

Jan 31, 2012
Chris Jensen for NHPR

The controversial Northern Pass hydro-electric project “cannot happen without local support” and “should not happen with eminent domain,” Gov. Lynch’s said today in his State of the State address.

Here is the paragraph from his speech:

StateImpact’s Amanda Loder has an interesting analysis – with some help from the Concord Monitor – at how opposition to eminent domain breaks out demographically and by political persuasion.

Here’s her report.

StateImpact NH is a cooperative project between NHPR and NPR.

 

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