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.

Pages

Northern Pass
12:00 am
Tue April 12, 2011

Northern Pass Says It Will Look for A Different Route in the North Country

Faced with strong, statewide opposition officials from Northern Pass say they are reworking parts of their plan, including finding a better route through the North Country. NHPR’s Chris Jensen reports.

NorthernPass officials say they want to change some important parts of their plan to bring 1,200 megawatts of hydro-electric power from Canada.

 Their possible changes include finding a new route between Canada and Groveton, one that will calm the furor in the North Country.

 Last month at least 2,300 people attended seven public hearings on the project.

Read more
Northern Pass
12:00 am
Sun April 3, 2011

Angry Voices: Transcripts of Northern Pass Hearings Available Now

Chris Jensen, NHPR

Transcripts of the seven public hearings on the Northern Pass project are now available at a web site operated by the U.S. Department of Energy, which conducted the meetings.

 1) Colebrook: http://www.northernpasseis.us/Document_Library/transcripts/03-19-2011%20NORTHERN%20PASS%20COLEBROOK%20HEARING.pdf

Read more
Northern Pass
12:00 am
Mon February 7, 2011

Is Big Hydro Really Green?

By JOHN DILLON

 

While some critics are lining up to oppose the Northern Pass Project in New Hampshire, others are following those wires to their source.

And that source is a series of dams in Quebec Canada run by Hydro-Quebec.

As Northeast states increasingly look to satisfy their demand for low cost renewable energy, opponents are arguing that big hydro is not as green as it appears.

As part of a collaboration of Northeast stations John Dillon of Vermont Public Radio reports:

Read more
The Exchange
12:00 am
Tue January 25, 2011

Debating Northern Pass

-AX- via Flickr/Creative Commons

In October, the Northern Pass Project. comprised of Massachusetts-based utility NStar and Northeast Utilities, formally announced a partnership with Canadian energy giant Hydro-Quebec to bring hydroelectric power from Canada through New Hampshire. Promising new construction jobs, cheaper and greener energy sources, and additional tax revenues, the plan at first enjoyed broad support.

Read more
Northern Pass
12:00 am
Wed December 29, 2010

The Northern Pass: Bringing Hydro-Power to New England

-AX- via Flickr/Creative Commons

The Northern Pass project promises to be one of the biggest, most complex and controversial issues of the coming year.

When built it’s going to bring electric power to New England from massive dams in Quebec .

It’s renewable power and therefore very attractive to state officials and utilities looking to get away from fossil fuels.

But it’s going to cut a long swath through New Hampshire, much of it forest land.

Read more

Pages