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Department of Energy recommends permit for Northern Pass

New Hampshire Union Leader

August 10. 2017 9:01PM

A U.S. Department of Energy report is recommending that the Northern Pass project receive a presidential permit — a key approval for the transmission project to proceed.

“DOE’s proposed action and agency preferred alternative is to issue a presidential permit for the project,” said the final environmental impact report, released Thursday.

Federal agencies often have at least a 30-day waiting period before they make a proposed action final.

Northern Pass spokesman Martin Murray said the presidential permit is one of three governmental approvals needed for the $1.6 billion hydropower transmission project.

“This is a huge achievement for the project,” Murray said. “This puts us on the road to a presidential permit and it demonstrates that the federal government agrees that of all the alternatives studied, our proposed alternative is the best.”

Northern Pass, which runs through more than 30 communities from Pittsburg to Deerfield, also needs several state approvals before it can start operating by late 2020. The state Site Evaluation Committee is currently holding hearings on whether to approve the project.

The project also is waiting for a special use permit from the U.S. Forest Service to cross portions of the White Mountain National Forest.

Project officials hope to garner all necessary approvals by the end of this year.

The report summary can be viewed below. The full report is available by clicking here.

Project opponent Jack Savage said the report didn’t surprise him. “The key thing is it’s still up to New Hampshire what happens with Northern Pass,” said Savage, who works for the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests.

The 192-mile route includes 60 miles of buried lines. The project’s overhead lines have generated most of the opposition.

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers applauded the report.

“The Northern Pass project will provide work for hundreds of highly trained, local electrical workers and IBEW Local 104 appreciates the timely, thorough work undertaken by the U.S. Department of Energy, and the department’s focus on facts over rhetoric,” said Brian Murphy, business manager for Local 104, which represents about 1,000 outside electrical linemen in New England.

Northern Pass would produce 6,747 full-time equivalent construction jobs over three years and $734.6 million in economic impacts from construction, according to the report.

The report conceded there would be some impact on New Hampshire’s tourist industry, but couldn’t predict how much. “While it is reasonable to conclude that overhead portions of the project may have some level of impacts to tourism within New Hampshire, and to individual locations proximate to the project route, these are not quantifiable,” the report said.

The current route would potentially affect 1,494 acres of wildlife habitat, according to the report.

Northern Pass applied for the presidential permit in October 2010. The Department of Energy had reviewed more than a dozen routes and configurations.

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