Northern Pass

The Northern Pass project would span across 140 miles of NH to deliver Canadian hydropower to the regional power grid
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
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
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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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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NH News
8:59 pm
Wed September 4, 2013

Many Opponents Attend Southernmost Northern Pass Open House

Credit Sam Evans-Brown / NHPR

More than 100 people showed up to an information session about the Northern Pass project in Concord last night. It was the sixth and southernmost of a series of ten scheduled sessions.

Central New Hampshire residents got the most detailed look to date of the route. The main attraction was a series of five computers where residents could look up the footprint of the project in relation to their property.

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North Country
5:18 pm
Mon August 19, 2013

Northern Pass Promises $7.5 Million Job Program - If Project Gets OK

Northern Pass official Gary Long spoke to reporters in Lancaster.
Credit Chris Jensen for NHPR

Northern Pass says it will provide $7.5 million to fund a job-creation effort in Coos County, but the money won’t be available unless the controversial project is approved.

Northern Pass wanted to do something beyond the estimated 1,200 construction jobs the project would create statewide, said Gary Long, the past president of Public Service and now an official with Northern Pass.

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North Country
11:43 am
Mon August 19, 2013

N.H. Congressional Delegation Questions DOE About Northern Pass Route

New Hampshire’s congressional delegation is asking the U.S. Department of Energy whether the federal agency’s evaluation of the Northern Pass Transmission project can proceed if Northern Pass doesn’t have permission to use some segments of its new route.

For the project to move ahead the D.O.E. must give a Presidential Permit allowing the hydro-electric power to be brought across the border from Canada.

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North Country
6:00 am
Mon August 19, 2013

Northern Pass Comment Period Opens, DOE Moves Closer To Hearings

The Federal Register Monday is publishing the official notice that a changed, proposed route for the Northern Pass Transmission project has been filed with the U.S. Department of Energy.

Northern Pass announced the route late in June, with the only substantial change being in Northern Coos Country.

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North Country
11:57 am
Thu August 8, 2013

Northern Pass Says State Could Overrule Forest Society Land Claims

Northern Pass wants to bury its transmission line along this section of Route 3 in Clarksville but the forest society says it owns the land on either side and beneath the road.
Credit Chris Jensen for NHPR

In what appears to be a groundbreaking  tactic Northern Pass says it plans to ask the state’s Site Evaluation Committee to give it permission to bury its transmission lines on roadside property that the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forest says it controls.

But there are serious doubts that the Site Evaluation Committee has that authority, leading to the prospect of a court fight and delay in the project.

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NH News
5:08 pm
Tue August 6, 2013

House Committee Takes Up Tabled Northern Pass Bills

A house subcommittee has again started work on three bills inspired by the Northern Pass Transmission project held in committee over the summer. The bills would require developers to bury transmission lines, place them along transportation corridors when feasible, or to not build them if regulators determine there is no public need.

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North Country
11:50 am
Tue August 6, 2013

Northern Pass Holds First Town Meeting On New Route

Chris Jensen for NHPR
Credit Chris Jensen / NHPR

Northern Pass officials held the first in a series of town meetings Monday night to explain – and convince residents to accept – their new route.

“The purpose is to share information, answer questions and get feedback,” said Northern Pass spokesman Michael Skelton.

The initial meeting was held in Millsfield, an unincorporated place, between Errol and Colebrook. It only has about two dozen residents.

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North Country
1:22 pm
Tue July 30, 2013

Northern Pass Predicts Approval In Two Years

A top executive with Northeast Utilities told analysts Tuesday that he expects to have final approval for the Northern Pass Project around the middle of 2015 and be importing hydro-electric energy from Canada two years later.

"Our plan has both the state and federal permitting processes complete by mid-2015. On that schedule we expect to bring the project into service around mid-2017," said Northeast Utilities chief operating officer Lee Olivier during a conference call with analysts.

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