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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North Country
5:10 pm
Thu February 9, 2012

Northern Pass Foes Eye New Tactic: Attacking Corporate Power

Lawyer Thomas Linzey says rights-based ordinances are one way to fight the power of corporations.
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.

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North Country
12:15 pm
Tue January 31, 2012

Lynch On Northern Pass

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:

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North Country
3:33 pm
Mon January 30, 2012

StateImpact NH: A Closer Look at Who Does and Doesn't Like Northern Pass and Eminent Domain

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.

 

Business and Economy
3:13 pm
Fri January 27, 2012

Breaking Down Who Does–And Doesn’t–Support Eminent Domain For Northern Pass

While a majority of poll respondents opposed Northern Pass, we noticed some interesting variations in the data
Chris Jensen NHPR

 

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NH News
5:09 pm
Wed January 25, 2012

Senate Passes Tighter Eminent Domain Rules

The New Hampshire Senate has voted to strengthen the rules for taking private property by eminent domain. But there are questions as to what the wording of the final Senate bill really means.

Mark McCulloch lives in North Stratford, way up North on the Vermont-New Hampshire Border.

His house is smack in the middle of the route for the hydro-electric transmission project, Northern Pass, the 180 mile transmission line that would bring electricity from Canada to New England.

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North Country
6:20 pm
Mon January 23, 2012

Competitor Challenges Northern Pass Claims On Jobs

Chris Jensen for NHPR

A new study says far fewer jobs will be created by the Northern Pass than the utility has forecast, according to StateImpact, a project between NHPR and NPR.

Here’s part of Amanda Loder’s report:

“Today, the New England Power Generators Association released a report it commissioned from PolEcon Research.  The Association is one of the major opponents of the Northern Pass project. 

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NH News
6:00 pm
Mon January 23, 2012

Competing Studies Dispute Northern Pass Jobs Claims

Sam Evans-Brown

 

An industry group has put out a new study that disputes Public Service of New Hampshire’s claims about the number of jobs the Northern Pass project will create.

The study cuts PSNH’s jobs prediction in half.

A trade group representing power plant owners commissioned an independent analyst to study how many jobs the Northern Pass project might create.

That analysis found that the project could expect to create just over 600 jobs in New Hampshire, about half of the 1,200 jobs figure released by Northern Pass.

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StateImpact
5:08 pm
Mon January 23, 2012

Will Northern Pass Create Jobs? It Depends On Which Study You Believe

Originally published on Mon January 23, 2012 5:08 pm

One of the main questions that lingers over Northern Pass is: Will it create jobs, especially in the struggling North Country?

And, befitting the layers of controversy surrounding the project, the simplest answer won out.

It depends on who you ask.

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North Country
2:37 pm
Mon January 23, 2012

A Helping Hand To A Woman Who Refused Northern Pass Money

Lynne Placey.
Chris Jensen for NHPR

Lynne Placey, a North Country woman who’s struggling to make ends meet but has refused to take money from Northern Pass, has been given $2,650 by a group that admires her gumption.

Placey, of Stewartstown, says she turned down an offer of around $500,000 from Northern Pass for a right-of-way on her land although her only income is Social-Security and giving piano lessons.

“She’s a modern-day hero,” said Rikki Ramsden, one of the owners of Atta Girl Records of Thornton, which was behind the fund-raising effort.

North Country
10:34 am
Sun January 15, 2012

Forest Society Makes Goal for Balsams, Blocks Northern Pass

The Forest Society says it has raised the $850,000 needed for a conservation easement at the Balsams Grand Resort Hotel in Dixville Notch. It blocks a right-of-way for the proposed Northern Pass hydro-electric project. NHPR’s Chris Jensen reports.

The Forest Society’s deadline for raising $850,000 for a 5,800-acre conservation easement at the Balsams resort was January 15th.

It raised the money with a record 1,500 contributions.

And, The Forest Society says Northern Pass’ hope to use the land for its electric towers deserves some of the credit.

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North Country
3:15 pm
Fri January 13, 2012

New AMC Head Vows Continued Opposition to Northern Pass

John Macomber

John D. Judge, who will take over as head of the Appalachian Mountain Club next month, says its priorities will include continued opposition to the Northern Pass project and trying to get more children away from computer games and into the outdoors.

The proposed hydro-electric project would clearly have a detrimental impact on recreation and conservation, said Judge.

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North Country
3:56 pm
Fri January 6, 2012

Anonymous Donor Provides $150,000 For Project That Would Help Block Northern Pass

A donor who asked to remain anonymous has contributed $150,000 to the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forest to help it buy a conservation easement at the Balsams resort in Dixville Notch.

The forest society has a deal with the Tillotson Corp. to buy the easement for $850,000. With a deadline of January 15th it has raised $609,000, according to a news release.

The easement covers about 5,800 acres as well as a right-of-way that the Northern Pass project sought to use for its transmission lines.

North Country
2:39 pm
Thu January 5, 2012

Gingrich Vows To Bury Northern Pass

Chris Jensen for NHPR

Newt Gingrich was in Littleton Thursday and he put aside national and international issues for one focused on one of the biggest issues in the North Country: The Northern Pass. 

Like a good politician Newt Gingrich couldn’t have come up with a more popular position at a town meeting at the Littleton Opera House.

It had to do with Northern Pass, the proposed hydro-electric project despised by many in the North Country.

In particular it had to do with the federal government’s consideration of a Presidential Permit.

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NH News
5:27 pm
Thu December 8, 2011

Lawmakers Want to Tighten Up Eminent Domain

Northern Pass Opponents were displeased with the committee's decision.
Sam Evans-Brown

 

Senate lawmakers met today to discuss a bill that would change the rules of eminent domain.

As NHPR’s Sam Evans-Brown reports, the debate is spurred by people concerned that they will lose their land to the Northern Pass Project

The judiciary committee considered more than a half dozen amendments that all sought to clarify when and how utilities can use eminent domain.  

In the end, the committee recommended Republican Senator Sharon Carson’s proposal.

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Breaking
12:28 pm
Wed December 7, 2011

Conservation Easement Will Block Northern Pass At Balsams

The proposed conservation easement at the Balsams.

Part of the deal to sell the Balsams resort in Dixville Notch will apparently prevent the Northern Pass from using the land for its electric power lines. NHPR’s Chris Jensen reports.

 

When the Balsams resort was up for sale the Northern Pass utility project was interested.

Northern Pass apparently wanted a right-of-way for the huge towers bringing hydro-electric power from Canada.

But if the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests can raise $850,000 that won’t be happening.

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