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What Is Northern Pass? Northern Pass is a proposal to run 192 miles of new power lines from Canada, through northern New Hampshire, south to Concord, and then eastward to Deerfield. The project is a collaboration between Eversource (previously known as Public Service of New Hampshire) and Hydro-Quebec, which is owned by the provincial government of Quebec. The utilities say the $1.6 billion Northern Pass project would transport 1,090 megawatts of electricity from Quebec – which derives more than 90 percent of its power from hydroelectric dams – to the New England power grid.The ControversyNorthern Pass has proved an incredibly controversial issue in New Hampshire, especially in the North CountryThe project has generated considerable controversy from the beginning. Despite its statewide impacts, many of the projects most dedicated opponents come from the sparsely-populated and heavily forested North Country.Eversource says the new lines would bring jobs and tax revenue to this struggling part of the state. But opponents of the project say it would mean only temporary jobs for residents when it's under construction. They also say it will deface New Hampshire's forestland, hurting tourism and lowering property values. Depending on the location, developers say the project's towers will range from 85 to 135 feet tall.Polls have consistently found the public remains sharply divided on this issue.Some critics have pushed for the entire project to be buried. Politicians ranging from Sen. Maggie Hassan to former Sen. Kelly Ayotte to 2012 GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich have floated this move as having the potential to soften opposition. Eversource maintains this would be too expensive, and would effectively make the project impossible to pursue. 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 routesNorthern Pass has considered a number of routes for the project, but has publicly announced three. The first, unveiled in 2011, faced major backlash from North Country residents and environmental groups. Over the next couple of years, the project and its primary opponent the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests played a prolonged chess match over parcels of North Country land. Northern Pass ultimately spent more than $40 million purchasing acres of undeveloped land in the North Country. Meanwhile, the Forest 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, outlawing the practice except in cases where a new transmission line was needed to maintain the reliability of the electric system.By the spring of 2013, Northern Pass opponents believed the project was essentially "cornered" into trying to route the power line through a large conservation easement, called the Connecticut Lakes Headwaters. The governor at that time, Democrat Maggie Hassan, said she opposed such a move on the part of Northern Pass.Second Time Around: Northern Pass Announces Alternative RouteIn 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 and Stewartstown. 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 raised the price tag on the project from $1.2 billion as initially proposed to about $1.4 billion. While opponents said this move was progress, many – including the Forest Society – maintained that Northern Pass should be able to bury all 180 miles of power lines.Final Route: Burial through the White Mountains0000017a-15d9-d736-a57f-17ff8a620000 After years of continued opposition, Northern Pass made its final concession to critics. It downsized the powerline from an initial proposal of 1,200 megawatts to 1,090 to take advantage of a new technology, known as HVDC lite. This move made it more economical to bury portions of the line, and Eversource said it was now willing to bury 52 additional miles of the project. The new route would be alongside state roadways as the project passed through the White Mountain National Forest.While the governor called the change “an important improvement,” she also said “further improvements” to the project should be made. The partial burial did not placate the project’s fiercest opponents, but some speculated that it would help the project clear one significant hurdle: whether it would get approval to use public lands from the top official at the White Mountain National Forest. The move pushed the estimated price tag up again, to $1.6 billion, now for a project that would deliver less power.With its new route in hand, project officials filed to build the project in October of 2015.Before the Site Evaluation CommitteeThe application to state officials was likely the longest and most complicated in the state’s history, and 161 individuals, interest groups, and municipalities asked to be allowed to participate in the process to evaluate the merits of the project.Given the size and complexity of the project, many of the interveners pushed for a longer review than the standard one year that state law dictates. In May of 2016, those groups got their wish, and the decision was pushed back 9 months. The final deadline was set for September of 2017. However, once the proceeding got under way, it was clear that even this delay would not allow time to hear from all of the witnesses called by the various interveners. Early in September of 2017 it was delayed again, with a final decision set for February 2018.DeniedOn February 1st, 2018, the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee voted unanimously to deny the permit for Northern Pass, a decision that triggered an appeals process that was taken up by the New Hampshire Supreme Court in late 2018.In May of 2019, the court heard orgal arguments on the appeal.On July 19, 2019, the court issued its ruling. In a unanimous decision, the SEC's rejection of the project was upheld, likely marking the end of Northern Pass as it was proposed.

Northern Pass Spokesman Says 'End in Sight,' As SEC Pushes Back Decision

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  The state committee reviewing Northern Pass has pushed back its deadline to make a decision, but a spokesman for the hydro-electric transmission project tells NHPR, “the end is in sight.”

 

“To use an overused sports analogy,” Martin Murray says, “We’re in the fourth quarter.”

 

Others might say it is overtime.

 

The New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee had planned to make a decision by the end of September.

 

The SEC has since added 31 hearings on the $1.6 billion project. The new schedule pushes the targeted written decision to March 31.

 

Murray joined The Exchange with Laura Knoy on Wednesday, as the conversation explored the pros and cons of the project.

 

Garry Rayno, who covers the regulatory review process for InDepthNH.org, and Sam Evans-Brown, host of Outside/In, discussed the arc of the project and remaining challenges.

 

One caller said New Hampshire needs the 192-mile transmission line linking to Hydro-Quebec for its energy needs.

 

Howie Wemyss, general manager of the Mount Washington Auto Road, says the project would hurt tourism.

 

After an outcry about burying the lines, Northern Pass issued a redesigned route to bury 60 miles of it, roughly between Bethlehem and Ashland.

 

Another caller said Northern Pass, which is a subsidiary of Eversource Energy, is just using the Granite State for its corporate gain.

 

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Credit NHPR File
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The proposed line in New Hampshire stretches from the Canadian border at Pittsburg to Franklin, and then to an existing substation in Deerfield.

 

The applicant says it will deliver 1,090 megawatts of “clean, affordable energy” from Hydro-Quebec.

 

The project has stoked controversy since it was first presented in 2010.

 

Murray says the project will reduce regional power costs by about $600 million, with New Hampshire realizing about $60 million a year.

 

A decision from the SEC, which reviews, approves, and monitors energy facilities for compliance, is one of several steps in the regulatory process. The U.S. Department of Energy issued a Final Environmental Impact Statement last month.

 

The SEC review is lengthy. And by design. Part of it is the outpouring of testimony.

 

Rayno says it is because the Hampshire Legislature a few years ago modified the process to include more time for public input.

 

“It’s taken a much longer time than anyone ever envisioned,” Rayno says.

 

Murray says there is no project really comparable to Northern Pass. He says the media should do more to clear up misinformation. Such as, he adds, the claim that the transmission lines will be visible from the top of Mount Washington.

 

“That’s just not true,” he says.

 

Jack Savage, with the Society for the Protection of N.H. Forests, said the review process is taking so long because a majority of Granite Staters oppose the project.

 

Rayno says there is support out there. Some larger businesses have been vocal.

 

“There is support,” he says, “But there is overwhelming opposition as well.”

 
Read more - Northern Pass: Project Primer

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