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Mass. drops Northern Pass bid in favor of rival project

New Hampshire Union Leader

March 28. 2018 7:51PM
The 192-mile Northern Pass transmission line would carry hydroelectric power from Quebec into New England, running through more than 30 Granite State communities, including Groveton. (UNION LEADER FILE)

Northern Pass was dealt another setback Wednesday when the hydroelectric transmission project lost a guaranteed buyer for its power.

Massachusetts regulators announced they were dropping plans for Northern Pass to supply clean energy for Bay State customers for 20 years and instead going with a rival Maine project.

“Massachusetts came to the only logical conclusion, that Northern Pass won’t be built through New Hampshire, and isn’t an option going forward,” said project foe Jack Savage of the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests. “The extension cord is now unplugged. “

The news comes after New Hampshire regulators on Feb. 1 rejected the project’s application, clouding its future.

Eversource said it planned to press on with the project.

“Despite recent delays, we continue to believe that Northern Pass is the best project for the region and New Hampshire, and we intend to pursue all options for making it a reality,” the company said in a statement.

In January, Massachusetts officials conditionally accepted the $1.6 billion Northern Pass project to negotiate a contract with Massachusetts utilities. But the Maine project was chosen in mid-February for simultaneous negotiations after the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee’s rejection of Northern Pass.

The New England Clean Energy Connect transmission project, a joint bid between Central Maine Power Company and Hydro-Quebec, now becomes the lead contender. That $950 million project would deliver 1,200 megawatts of hydro-power from Quebec through Maine into New England.

On Wednesday, Massachusetts regulators said a group of electric distribution companies had “terminated the conditional selection” of Northern Pass and was “in the process of concluding contract negotiations” with the Maine project.

The move was meant to meet a contract submission date to the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities by April 25.

The Maine project isn’t projected to go into service until 2022, two years later than Northern Pass, but it still would meet the Massachusetts deadline.

Northern Pass officials asked the SEC to reconsider its decision, but earlier this month, the committee said a reconsideration request could come only after it releases its written decision, expected this week.

The SEC isn’t likely to vote on whether to reconsider its denial until May, according to committee attorney Michael Iacopino.

The 192-mile Northern Pass transmission line would carry hydroelectric power, also from Hydro-Quebec, into New England, running through more than 30 Granite State communities.

Eversource’s statement said no other project has obtained the necessary approvals from federal permitting authorities in the U.S. and Canada, and secured agreements with major contractors and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

“It is because of these achievements that Northern Pass was originally selected as the top bid in the Massachusetts Clean Energy solicitation,” Eversource said.

A spokesman for Protect the Granite State, which opposes the project, celebrated the Massachusetts decision.

“Today’s decision by Massachusetts to terminate its prior selection of Northern Pass for that state’s Clean Energy RFP is yet another gut punch to a dying project,” said senior adviser Judy Reardon, who has declined to identify who is financing the group. “After eight years, enough is enough. It is long past time for New Hampshire to move on from Northern Pass.”

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