Energy Siting Sails Through House; Power Line Burial Stuck in Senate

May 15, 2014

Credit Daniel S. Hurd via Flickr CC

There was movement on energy policy in both chambers of the New Hampshire legislature today. While reforming the approval process for power plants sailed through the House, rules encouraging burial of power lines got hung up in the Senate.

After making a few changes to a Senate version, on a voice vote the New Hampshire house passed changes to how proposed power plants get a permit. That means if the Senate agrees to the House version beginning in July, new projects will need to increase the amount of public outreach they do before submitting applications to be built.

The bill would also shrink the Site Evaluation Committee – that’s the body that approves those permits from fifteen members to nine. It will include two “public members” appointed by the governor – and give it a professional staffer and a dedicated budget.

Other features of the Site Evaluation Committee reform:

  • Seeds the changes with a $500,000 grant from the state's Renewable Energy Fund, which is used to provide incentives to install renewable energy. This elicited a sharp rebuke from the NH Clean Tech Council, a renewable energy advocacy group.
  • Requires applicants to hold public information sessions in each county where a project is proposed, 30 days before submitting an application and again 90 days after the application is accepted.
  • Adds a requirement for approval of an energy project: "Issuance of a certificate will serve the public interest."

An unrelated bill was tabled in the Senate which would have created a preference for underground power lines in the state of New Hampshire. The bill would have allowed utilities to argue that burial is too expensive to be feasible, or would have adverse environmental impacts, but it failed to get the votes needed.