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October 26. 2012 12:16AM

Nine groups seek dismissal of impact study contractor

CONCORD — Nine organizations opposing the proposed Northern Pass transmission project have written the Department of Energy asking it to terminate the contractor now studying the project’s environmental impact.

The Appalachian Mountain Club, The Wilderness Society, the Nature Conservancy New Hampshire Chapter, and the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests were among the groups calling for DOE to remove SE Group, Ecology and Environment and Lucinda Low Swartz from the study of the $1.1 billion project.

The Conservation Law Foundation obtained documents which they claim show that the DOE let Northern Pass choose its third-party contractor.

The joint letter dated Oct. 24 indicates that the groups believe DOE “abdicated its responsibilities” to select a contractor and that such an action “undermines confidence” in the process.

Northern Pass officials said that DOE did make the ultimate call on the SE Group and the other contractors and that there is no need to remove them now from the study. The first contractor, Normandeau Group, withdrew after CLF and others pointed to conflicts of interest between Normandeau and Northeast Utilities, which is proposing the project along with Hydro-Quebec.

The study is required under the National Environmental Policy Act to review impacts to the land.

Northern Pass is applying for a Presidential Permit to transmit hydro power to the New England market from Quebec.

U.S. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., along with Rep. Charles Bass, R-N.H., also wrote to the secretary of the DOE asking for a full investigation.

CLF officials also note that their concerns have been echoed with more than 300 letters to the DOE from private citizens.

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Paula Tracy may be reached at ptracy@unionleader.com.


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