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.

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NH News
5:30 am
Fri January 17, 2014

Beyond Northern Pass: Where New England Will Get Its Power Remains Uncertain

Credit peupleloup / Flickr CC

  Third in a three part series.

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.

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NH News
5:30 am
Thu January 16, 2014

A Shifting Baseline: Would We 'Get Used' To Northern Pass?

Meagan Therriault and Geoff Pinard's driveway spills out almost directly beneath the Phase II power line.
Credit John Hession / NH Magazine

Second in a three part series

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?

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NH News
5:30 am
Wed January 15, 2014

Power Push: Learning From N.H.'s First HVDC Power Line

The Phase II power line is operated by National Grid and stretches from Monroe New Hampshire to the Massachusetts border. It came into service in 1990.
Credit Sam Evans-Brown / NHPR

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.

But they were a surprise to many residents 25 years ago, when they were installed.

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NH News
3:47 pm
Tue December 31, 2013

ISO-NE Approves Northern Pass Interconnectivity

The hydroelectric power line project known as the Northern Pass has passed a major regulatory hurdle Tuesday.


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North Country
6:00 am
Tue December 3, 2013

Evaluating The Site Evaluation Committee

Photo by Chris Jensen for NHPR

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.

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North Country
11:21 am
Fri November 22, 2013

SEC Public Meetings: Should Citizens Have A Role In Approving Utility Projects?

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.

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Environment
2:48 pm
Thu October 31, 2013

New Hydropower Transmission Line Proposed For Vermont

Credit New England Clean Power Link / www.necplink.com

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.

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North Country
5:43 pm
Wed October 23, 2013

Ayotte Says Northern Pass Should Pay To Have Lines Buried

Sen. Kelly Ayotte's town meeting at noon in Whitefield attracted about three dozen people. Photo by Chris Jensen for NHPR

Despite a modified route for the Northern Pass Project Sen. Kelly Ayotte says she still has “serious reservations” about the plan and the lines along the entire route should be buried.

“I am still very concerned about the impact on the beauty on the North Country and many other areas of the state,” she told NHPR following a Town Hall meeting Wednesday in Whitefield.

Ayotte says it would be best to bury all the transmission lines, not just an eight-mile section in Northern Coos County.

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North Country
4:50 pm
Wed October 9, 2013

Resort Sues Northern Pass Over Right-Of-Way

Photo by Chris Jensen for NHPR

A Campton resort is suing the Northern Pass, claiming it has no right to use an existing Public Service of New Hampshire right-of-way for larger transmission towers.

The suit was filed in Grafton County Superior Court by the owners of The Owl’s Nest Resort & Golf Club.

The resort already has a PSNH right-of-way and the suit claims Northern Pass’ plan to add substantially taller towers is unreasonable and “wrongfully exceeds” the original right-of-way agreement.

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North Country
8:00 am
Thu September 26, 2013

Rare Breed: A North Country Politician Favoring Northern Pass

A group of Northern Pass supporters, wearing green and blue, stood at the rear of the meeting room at the Mountain View Grand. Opponents of the project often wear orange.
Credit Photo by Chris Jensen for NHPR

Paul Grenier, the mayor of Berlin, one of three Coos Country Commissioners and an advocate of the Northern Pass was a lonely guy Wednesday evening at the U.S. Department of Energy’s third public hearing on the project.

Grenier walked through a sea of orange to reach the podium.

There were about 350 people gathered at the Mountain View Grand Resort and most wore orange, a symbol of their opposition to Northern Pass.

Grenier was not wearing orange.

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NH News
4:08 pm
Wed September 11, 2013

Colebrook New Site Of Northern Pass Hearing

The Department of Energy has moved a planned hearing on the proposed Northern Pass power project from West Stewartstown to Colebrook at the request of New Hampshire's congressional delegation, so more people can attend. U.S. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Kelly Ayotte and Congresswomen Carol Shea-Porter and Annie Kuster had said the original location might not be big enough. The Sept. 26 hearing has been moved to Colebrook Elementary School from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

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North Country
3:08 pm
Tue September 10, 2013

Northern Pass Hearing Moved To Colebrook

A public "scoping"  hearing on Northern Pass is being moved from West Stewartstown to Colebrook after the state’s Congressional delegation and Coos County Commissioner Rick Samson raised concerns.

The site is being changed “in response to public requests that raised concerns about insufficient capacity” at a restaurant in West Stewartstown, according to a statement from  the U.S. Department of Energy.

The meeting will now be held at the Colebrook Elementary School, 27 Dumont Street from 5 to 8 pm on September 26. 

The Exchange
9:00 am
Tue September 10, 2013

Northern Pass Project Moves South

Credit Visual Parade via Flickr Creative Commons

The campaign to promote this Canadian Hydropower project, focused until now on the North Country, has moved into central regions of the state.  Many of the concerns about towers and landscapes heard up North are being echoed elsewhere, but so are arguments that the state needs this source of renewable energy.

GUESTS:

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North Country
6:34 am
Tue September 10, 2013

Congressional Delegation Seeks Change for Northern Pass Hearing

The New Hampshire Congressional delegation has asked the U.S. Department of Energy to move a scoping hearing on the Northern Pass project from West Stewartstown to Colebrook.

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North Country
6:00 am
Fri September 6, 2013

'Scoping' Hearings On Northern Pass This Month

Those who favor and oppose the Northern Pass project will get their chance to testify about it before federal officials at the end of the month as the U.S. Department of Energy holds public “scoping” hearings.

The hearings are required because Northern Pass filed an amended route in July, changing its route through a portion of Coos County.

The meetings are to gather comments and information as the DOE considers whether to grant Northern Pass a Presidential Permit.

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