THE BAD NEWS
- The U.S. Forest Service gave Northern Pass the go-ahead to build its line through NH. The wording of the decision was disturbing, to say the least. In short, it acknowledged the significant negative environmental, social, historical, economic, and aesthetic side effects that will result from the line and then flatly dismissed those concerns as being outweighed by the importance of getting power to states other than NH. What happened to state sovereignty? Is NH not free to make its own decisions anymore? Or does it have to answer to the beck and call of whatever federal agency decides to utilize it for another state’s purposes?
- NH’s Governor Sununu has recently publicly criticized the SEC for not getting the Northern Pass authorized before now. This is in spite of the NH Department of Transportation report that publicly showed that Northern Pass has submitted inaccurate and poorly-researched plans for many parts of their route. Yet the SEC, in response to the pressure from the governor, issued a limitation on the cross-examination process of the hearings that only applies to those who oppose the Northern Pass (http://www.unionleader.com/Kathy-Sullivan-Northern-Pass-is-not-ready-for-prime-time-09122017). In short, the rule states that cross-examination is only allowed if the party can show that the opposition’s statements are clearly hostile to their position or if a cross-examination would bring new information to light (https://www.protectthegranitestate.org/judys-blog/2017/9/21/topsy-turvy-land-the-sec-and-northern-pass). This is a nearly impossible standard to meet and is so vague it is nearly unenforceable. If Northern Pass brings up an issue that can only be fully understood with further questioning and NH citizens cannot cross-examine in order to highlight that understanding, how is justice supposed to be found? And how exactly does the SEC plan to determine how parties may prove to them that the subject matter at hand will provide new information? This rule essentially allows the SEC to limit the ability of those in opposition to the Northern Pass and then reprimand them when they try to exercise their right. It is patently unfair and does not comport with the spirit of our adversarial and equitable legal process, which is the hallmark of our justice system. The SEC should be severely reprimanded by the state and federal governments for overreaching its boundaries and imposing a preposterously unfair limitation on a substantial group of people that it clearly does not plan to respect.
- The U.S. Department of Energy has listed the Northern Pass as its preferred alternative (https://forestsociety.org/blog-post/northern-pass-approval-nh-not-federal-government). This doesn’t mean that the Northern Pass is necessarily going to happen because it still cannot proceed without a Presidential Permit, a special use permit, and a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers. And remember, the Presidential Permit will only allow Northern Pass to construct the line across the border between Canada and the U.S. Without the other permits, the line will not be built down through NH.
THE GOOD NEWS
- The SEC has pushed back the deadline for making a decision until March 31st of 2018 (https://forestsociety.org/blog-post/northern-pass-decision-postponed-march-2018). While this is good news on multiple fronts, the most important thing for you to do is to take advantage of the extra time that is now available to NH citizens to submit comments in opposition to the Northern Pass. The latest statistics show an 11 to 1 ration of negative to positive comments regarding the Northern Pass, and this deadline extension is an opportunity to continue reminding the SEC that the National Grid proposal (see my earlier blog posts to learn more about this line) is far better than the Northern Pass.
- Transmission Developers, Inc put forth a proposal that even a Northern Pass official had to admit was more cost-effective and energy-efficient than the Northern Pass (http://www.unionleader.com/Kathy-Sullivan-Northern-Pass-is-not-ready-for-prime-time-09122017). There’s also the Granite State Power Link (which would deliver more megawatts per hour than Northern Pass) and the Emera Group proposal (which would bury the entire thing under the ocean floor). Not to mention the already-discussed National Grid proposal, which would utilize an existing line rather than scar the iconic White Mountain vistas that NH citizens claim as their identity. A recent Brattle Group study notes that the National Grid line would emit a significantly smaller amount of greenhouse gases than the Northern Pass (http://indepthnh.org/2017/09/21/study-granite-state-power-link-bests-northern-pass-on-co2-reductions/). Why isn’t the SEC interested in such an array of excellent proposals? Better yet, why is the SEC treating the Northern Pass like it’s the only option on the table when in fact there are at least six other proposals out there? It’s simple – because Eversource has ties with the state through its lobbying power and effectively controls the Massachusetts RFP process. This quote from Judy Reardon (Protect the Granite State) sums it up perfectly: “It’s hard to understand why anyone, other than Eversource Energy, a Connecticut company, would think it’s in New Hampshire’s interest to have a new 192-mile high voltage line scar New Hampshire when we can get the same energy supply and rate benefits, however modest, from transmission projects in other states.” (https://www.protectthegranitestate.org/judys-blog/2017/9/28/so-many-alternatives-to-northern-pass).
- The EPA recently sent a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers (who will be deciding whether or not to issue a wetlands permit to Northern Pass) recommending that they bury an additional 40 miles of the line that would pass through vulnerable forestland in northern NH (https://forestsociety.org/sites/default/files/Untitled.pdf). Notably, the EPA has the authority to veto any wetlands permit that the Army Corps of Engineers issues; this could be a valuable safeguard if the Corps improperly issues a permit (https://forestsociety.org/blog-post/epa-recommends-more-burial-northern-pass). The letter has now become part of the official record that the SEC must consider when making their decision.