Northern Pass

The Northern Pass project would span across 140 miles of NH to deliver Canadian hydropower to the regional power grid
Credit Edgars Strods / Flickr Creative Commons

What Is Northern Pass?

Northern Pass is a highly controversial proposal to run new 180 miles of new power lines from Canada, through northern New Hampshire, down to Concord, and then eastward to Deerfield. The project was originally a collaboration between three utilities: Northeast Utilities, the parent company of Public Service of New HampshireNSTAR, and Hydro-Quebec. (Northeast Utilities later merged with NSTAR.) The utilities say the $1.1 billion Northern Pass project would transport up to 1,200 megawatts of hydropower from Canada to the New England power grid.

What Northern Pass Needs

Northern Pass needs 40 miles of new electrical lines to run across forest land from the Canadian border to Groveton, in northern New Hampshire. In order to run the lines, Northern Pass needs to secure rights-of-way through the 40 mile tract. After that, developers say, PSNH’s existing rights-of-way are enough to continue transmission of power southward.  The exception being an eight mile stretch of land spanning Concord, Chichester, and Pembroke.  To make this happen, Northern Pass also wants the right-of-way adjacent to the Concord Municipal Airport.

The Controversy

Northern Pass has proved an incredibly controversial issue in New Hampshire, especially in the North Country
Credit Chris Jensen / NHPR

Despite its statewide impacts, Northern Pass has proved an incredibly controversial issue in New Hampshire, especially in the North Country

Despite its statewide impacts, Northern Pass has proved especially controversial--and divisive--in the sparsely-populated and heavily forested North Country. Northern Pass staffers say the new lines would bring much-needed jobs and new tax revenue to a struggling part of the state.

But opponents of the project say it would only offer a few temporary jobs for residents when it's under construction. They also say it will deface New Hampshire's famous forests, hurting tourism. And they argue the noise and fractured view will impinge on residents' quality of life. Depending on the location, developers say the project's towers will range from 85 to 110 feet tall.  Opponents say they could actually be up to 135 feet tall.  Some Granite Staters also question whether the state will actually benefit from the hydropower flowing southward into the New England grid.

A popular compromise position is burying the project's lines.  Politicians ranging from Governor Maggie Hassan to GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich have floated this move as having the potential to soften opposition.

The Route: Real Estate Chess Plays Out In The North Country 

Northern Pass and its opponents have been fighting over control of land along potential routes
Credit Chris Jensen / NHPR

Northern Pass has considered a number of routes for the project, but has publicly announced two. The first, unveiled in 2011, faced major backlash from North Country residents and environmental groups and was quickly dropped.  Over the next couple of years, the project and the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests played a prolonged chess match over parcels of North Country land.  Northern Pass offered landowners inflated prices for acreage, ultimately spending more than $40 million.  Meanwhile, the Society undertook an aggressive fundraising campaign and sought a slew of conservation easements to block potential routes.

This maneuvering narrowed the options for Northern Pass.  One lingering possibility was exercising eminent domain.  Northern Pass publicly stated it was not interested in pursuing eminent domain.  But in 2012, in response to strong statewide opposition, the Legislature closed the option altogether.

By the spring of 2013, Northern Pass opponents believed the project was essentially "cornered" into trying to make it through the Connecticut Lakes Headwaters conservation easement.  Governor Hassan said she opposed such a move on the part of Northern Pass.

Second Time Around: Northern Pass Announces Alternative Route

In June of 2013, Northern Pass unveiled its second proposed route.  Abandoning its previous strategy (and $40 million in land purchases) altogether, the project proposed building along existing state and local North Country roadways in Clarksville, Stewartstown.  As the Concord Monitor reported, that would bring the number of private properties hosting Northern Pass towers from 186 to 31.  But, it would also curb interference from private groups.  Under the new plan, Northern Pass would be subject to state and federal permitting processes.

In a nod to project opponents, Northern Pass also said it will bury 7.5 miles of line in Stewartstown, Clarksville, and under the Connecticut River.  That raises the price tag on the project from $1.2 billion to about $1.4 billion.  While Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests has noted this move is progress, its position is that Northern Pass should be able to bury all 180 miles of power lines.

Pages

NH News
7:12 am
Mon July 14, 2014

Eastern Canadian Premiers And New England Governors Meet Amid Energy Protests

Credit Sam Evans-Brown / NHPR

New Hampshire is hosting the latest summit between the governors of the New England states and the Premiers of Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador. The conference takes place Monday at the Mount Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods, and follows a similar meeting held in Quebec last September

Read more
Environment
4:32 pm
Thu May 15, 2014

Energy Siting Sails Through House; Power Line Burial Stuck in Senate

Credit Daniel S. Hurd via Flickr CC

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.

Read more
Environment
5:22 pm
Tue May 6, 2014

VT Governor Weighs In On Northern Pass Burial

Governor Shumlin's remarks came during a question and answer period during an event hosted by The New Republic Magazine.

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.

Read more
NH News
1:15 pm
Fri May 2, 2014

Federal Energy Dept. Releases List Of Northern Pass Alternatives

One of the twenty-one alternatives to the Northern Pass being considered would bury the power-line along the side of highways down through the center of the state.
Credit US DOE

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.

Read more
Newscast
12:50 pm
Mon March 24, 2014

Nashua Chamber Poll Finds Northern Pass Gaining Support

A new  survey, conducted on behalf of the Nashua Chamber of Commerce, found growing support for the controversial Northern Pass project.

The poll, taken last month  by the UNH Survey Center for the Nashua Chamber, which backs Northern Pass,  showed 46 percent favor the proposal and 35 percent oppose  it.

The survey also found limited enthusiasm for requiring the burial of all Northern Pass Transmission lines.

Chris Williams is the Nashua Chamber's President.

Read more
North Country
5:05 pm
Thu March 20, 2014

Northern Pass Foes Launch Petition Drive Seeking Hassan's Help

Northern Pass opponents are hoping a 7-year-old boy on YouTube will prompt people to sign a petition asking Gov. Hassan to fight harder against the project.

The YouTube video starts with the child, identified only as “Tucker,” listing his favorite trees.

It shows lovely scenery and then electric transmission towers appear.

Read more
North Country
11:53 am
Fri March 14, 2014

DOE Releases Summary Of Comments On Northern Pass

Comments were gathered at public hearings or sent directly to the the Department of Energy. Photo by Chris Jensen for NHPR.

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.

Read more
Environment
5:30 am
Thu March 13, 2014

N.H. Senate Set To Vote On Bevy of Energy Bills

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.

Read more
NH News
5:29 pm
Wed February 19, 2014

Latest Northern Pass Burial Bill Would Send Revenue To Highway Fund

A cross-section of an HVDC power cable - the type that a connection to Canada would feature if burial were required - which an electrical worker brought to the hearing as a prop
Credit Sam Evans-Brown / NHPR

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.

Read more
Environment
5:23 pm
Wed February 19, 2014

Energy Developers Critical, Environmentalists Hopeful On SEC Reform

Credit Flikr Creative Commons / Claudio Schwarz

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.

Read more
North Country
7:17 pm
Wed February 5, 2014

DOE Says It Will Reveal Alternate Northern Pass Routes

 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.

Read more
NH News
10:02 am
Tue February 4, 2014

DOE Mum On Alternate Routes For Northern Pass

Credit Michael Kappel / Flickr CC

 

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.

Read more
NH News
12:18 pm
Wed January 29, 2014

House Kills Proposed Moratorium On Wind Farms, Transmission Line Projects

Credit Chris Hunkeler / Flickr Creative Commons

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."

Read more
North Country
10:18 am
Thu January 23, 2014

How North Country Reps Voted On Burying Electric Transmission Lines

Opponents of the Northern Pass transmission project strongly favored House Bill 569. Photo by Chris Jensen for NHPR

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.

As NHPR’s Sam Evans-Brown reported the House voted 171 – 139 for HB 569.

Read more
NH News
5:54 pm
Wed January 22, 2014

House Lawmakers OK Bill Encouraging Buried Powerlines

Credit NHPR Staff

Update: The House Ways and Means Committee Chair, Susan Almy, has declined to take up this bill, meaning it moves directly to the Senate

The New Hampshire House of Representatives has passed a bill that establishes a preference for burying power lines like the controversial Northern Pass Project.

Read more

Pages