The U.S. Energy Department has agreed to release a preliminary report on alternative routes for Northern Pass, after being asked to do so by the state';s congressional delegation.
In a letter to the state';s four members of Congress, the Energy Department said the public report identifying alternative routes will be released before a draft environmental impact statement is issued.
“The Department of Energy’s commitment to issue a public preliminary report on alternatives is a positive step forward that will improve transparency for New Hampshire citizens,” delegation members said in a statement Wednesday. “We look forward to working with DOE to make sure Granite Staters have the opportunity to thoroughly review and comment on the alternative routes prior to the issuance of the draft Environmental Impact Study.”
The delegation first asked for the disclosure in September. That was two months after Northern Pass partners, which include Public Service of New Hampshire, revealed a proposed route for the power lines that calls for about eight miles to be buried along roads in the northernmost section of the state.
Northern Pass spokesman Mike Skelton said the company welcomes the Energy Department’s decision. He said Northern Pass joined with the delegation in requesting the report.
“As noted in the project’s letter to DOE in support of the delegation’s request, we believe an evaluation of the various alternatives that have been proposed, along with the economic implications of each, will be helpful as the permitting process moves forward,” Skelton said. “We believe our proposed route is a sensible one that is respectful of the land and its neighbors and that it will provide significant energy, environmental, and economic benefits.”
Jack Savage, spokesman for the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, said he applauded the Energy Department’s decision.
“We were supportive of the congressional delegation in asking the DOE to do this,” he said. “It will be interesting to see what alternative routes they include.”
Foes of the current plans oppose any crossing through the Connecticut Lakes Headwaters Conservation Area and want more of the line buried. The line would bring 1,200 megawatts of hydroelectric power from Quebec into New England.
In its July application, Northern Pass partners dismissed burying more of the line, and other alternatives, as “suffering from some combination of significant technical, economic, legal, environmental and practical challenges that would result in abandonment of the project.”