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PSNH Asks For Time To Negotiate Settlement On Scrubber, Selling Power Plants

Sam Evans-Brown

Public Service of New Hampshire wants to seek a settlement on two major proceedings currently before utility regulators.

The first decision facing the Public Utilities Commission is how much ratepayers should have to spend to reimburse the cost of a $422 million scrubber on its coal-fired power plant in Bow. The second is whether it’s in customers’ best interest to allow PSNH to keep its power plants, or if the utility should sell them.

Today, PSNH asked for a stay in both matters, so it would have more time “to allow collaborative and legislative efforts to progress that may resolve the myriad issues that are currently under consideration in these dockets” according to a filing. The document says negotiations would be “negatively impacted if the dockets were to proceed at this time.”

PSNH points to a bill filed by Republican Senator Jeb Bradley that could lay out a structure for a negotiated deal. Bradley – reached via cell-phone while snow-shoeing in the White Mountains – said, “There’s a hope held by PSNH, myself, and other parties that this can be resolved with a settlement that would be fair to customers.” He notes that the deal could include reimbursing PSNH through bonds over a longer period of time, similarly to how the utility was paid back for lost income when it sold the Seabrook Nuclear Station. 

Any deal would have to reconcile how much the utility should be paid for the scrubber, and how much of that cost the company would have to write-off. It also remains to be seen whether any settlement would actually include selling some or all of PSNH’s three fossil-fuel power-plants or nine hydro-electric facilities, at what price, and whether the company would have to take a hit on that sale as well.

Senator Bradley says some of the details of a settlement could begin to come forward early in the new year, when his bill comes up for a hearing.

Sam Evans-Brown has been working for New Hampshire Public Radio since 2010, when he began as a freelancer. He shifted gears in 2016 and began producing Outside/In, a podcast and radio show about “the natural world and how we use it.” His work has won him several awards, including two regional Edward R. Murrow awards, one national Murrow, and the Overseas Press Club of America's award for best environmental reporting in any medium. He studied Politics and Spanish at Bates College, and before reporting was variously employed as a Spanish teacher, farmer, bicycle mechanic, ski coach, research assistant, a wilderness trip leader and a technical supporter.
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