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Another View -- Dolly McPhaul: Is Eversource competent to build Northern Pass?

October 08. 2017 10:48PM

The criteria for a permit for Northern Pass requires the applicant to describe its managerial, financial, and technical capabilities to complete and manage the project.

Eversource, formerly Public Service Co. of New Hampshire, is notorious for mismanagement, bad projects, and reliance on the public to pay for its irresponsible mistakes. The over $1 billion Seabrook Power Plant caused the PSNH bankruptcy and cost ratepayers. The $430 million Merrimack Scrubber was a financial disaster, and the plant is about to be sold at a huge loss. The ratepayers are to pay for a large portion of the costs of the scrubber and the loss in the sale of the plant.

Northern Pass is another large and complicated project that Eversource appears to be incapable of producing in a responsible manner. Monies were spent buying land the project won’t use, hiring lobbyists and attorneys, giving monies for support letters and hiring “experts” from other areas of the country to supply “facts.” The project’s concerns seem to be more for “paving the way” and the “powers that be,” than for accurate project plans. The lack of managing skills is evident in an application that was not complete at its acceptance and is still not complete today, seven years after the project’s inception.

Its financial capabilities are also unacceptable. Although Northern Pass originally stated HydroQuebec would pay for the construction, HydroQuebec stated it would not pay for one penny of the U.S. construction.

Northern Pass then stated its parent company would pay for construction and be reimbursed through lease monies. However, Northern Pass does not have a market. It needs to win the Massachusetts request for proposal, despite its inept plans and incomplete financing.

Northern Pass has repeatedly stated New Hampshire people would not have to pay for the project. Eversource President Bill Quinlan, under oath, stated the ratepayers of New Hampshire might have to pay for a portion of the project. “Might?” He doesn’t know? Northern Pass has been ongoing for seven years. For its application to have been accepted, it was supposed to demonstrate financial capabilities.

Northern Pass’ technical skills are the most egregious. It has not completed information requested by various state agencies for the application’s acceptance almost two years ago.

At the Site Evaluation Committee (SEC) hearing on Sept. 29, the second date on which the SEC was to make its decision, Northern Pass project manager Samuel Johnson admitted there were “clearly errors in the original report.”

Public counsel, attorney Thomas Pappas, asked, “Didn’t the DOT (Department of Transportation) express concerns about the inaccuracies of plans and expressed concerns if they should continue to review plans because they were so inaccurate?”

Samuel Johnson, under oath, agreed.

Many errors in their “plans” were pointed out by DOT employees, attorneys or the public. The lack of knowledge and unwillingness to examine rights-of-way led Northern Pass to request a blanket exception from DOT to bury its lines under all roadways, contrary to DOT’s policy. Not only does Northern Pass not know where it will have sufficient room beside the roads for burial, managers don’t even know which sides of the roads they will use or the location for splice vaults ... many block businesses.

Would Northern Pass managers have done a thorough study to find these errors and correct them on their own? Undoubtedly, not.

The DOT has complained they don’t have time to do their own work due to the Northern Pass and the about 190 original requests for exceptions. In fact, DOT has suspended further review of exception requests until new survey work has been done with more accurate information.

At the Oct. 2 SEC meeting, Nothern Pass stated it wanted the SEC to delegate authority to the DOT over local town roads, rather than with local boards. Of particular concern is the 8-mile section of new line in Pittsburg and Stewartstown.

This exemplifies the attitude that Eversource controls the state and its agencies. Northern Pass “expected” its application to be accepted, “expects” the SEC to grant a permit, despite its lack of the required managerial, financial, and technical capabilities and “expects” the DOT to do its work. Its audacity is exceeded only by its arrogance.

Should this inept company and its out of area construction team, with safety violations, be allowed to bury high voltage power lines in front of our homes, schools, and businesses ... or anywhere?

If this project is accepted by the RFP in Massachusetts or the SEC in New Hampshire, clearly, “money talks.”

Dolly McPhaul lives in Sugar Hill.

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