N.H. Regulators Delay Reconsideration Of Northern Pass

Mar 12, 2018

Dozens of spectators packed the Site Evaluation Committee to hear if it would move forward on Eversource's Northern Pass appeal.
Credit Annie Ropeik / NHPR

New Hampshire regulators on Monday put off a final decision on Eversource’s appeal for its Northern Pass permit.

The state Site Evaluation Committee, or SEC, voted to wait on next steps until the end of March, when they expect to put their earlier denial of the utility's proposed transmission line in writing.

That denial came in early February. Soon after, Eversource asked for the decision to be reconsidered.

On Monday, the SEC declined to take up any such request until after their written decision comes out.

That will set the clock back another 30 days – at least – in Eversource's appeal to build the nearly 200-mile power line from Canada to New Hampshire.

And that doesn't bode well for the project’s pending deal with Massachusetts.

Massachusetts decides March 27 whether to make a big hydropower purchase from Northern Pass, or a competitor in Maine.

Eversource has said it needs to show "progress" with New Hampshire to salvage that deal.

Spokesman Martin Murray wouldn't say whether he felt this latest delay would help or hurt.

“We now have to await the written decision, and once we see that and fully evaluate it, we’ll be able to respond to it,” he says.

The Site Evaluation Committee also put off deciding whether to reopen deliberations on the project to weigh some criteria they originally skipped.

Those address the project’s potential benefit to the public good, and its impact on aesthetics, the environment and natural resources along its route.

SEC members appeared interested Monday in considering those factors for the sake of argument, though they weren’t sure it would change their original denial.

They decided not to vote on the issue until after the appeals process continues later this spring.

Opponents of the project don’t want to see deliberations reopened.

“Some of them may have wished they had deliberated longer,” says Jack Savage of the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests. “They clearly didn’t have to, and didn’t want to.”

If the SEC eventually declines to give Eversource a second chance, or if they deny the project again, the utility will likely appeal its case to the New Hampshire Supreme Court.