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Mass. officials to review decision on Northern Pass bid

By MICHAEL COUSINEAU
New Hampshire Union Leader

February 07. 2018 11:07PM




Massachusetts officials want to make a quick decision on whether to cut Northern Pass loose from a proposed offer to supply renewable energy there.

And more than a dozen Granite State legislators, including the House speaker, are pushing for a rival transmission project.

All this was fallout from last week’s decision by the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee to deny an application for Northern Pass to build a 192-mile transmission line that would carry hydroelectric power from Canada into New England.

At stake are thousands of construction jobs and tens of millions of dollars in new yearly property taxes collectively to more than 30 communities along the route.

Opponents, meanwhile, fear the $1.6 billion project would harm tourism, property values and quality of life.

Last month, Massachusetts officials announced Northern Pass was chosen over more than 40 other bidders and moved toward a March 27 deadline to negotiate and execute long-term contracts.

Following the SEC rejection, Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources Commissioner Judith Judson in a letter urged those involved in evaluating the bids to review the situation and make a quick decision on the next step, including the option of “terminating negotiations and returning to bid selection.”

She urged the various parties to meet by Friday.

Both Eversource and National Grid, which submitted a bid proposing its $1 billion Granite State Power Link project, were on the committee evaluating bids along with Unitil and an independent evaluator.

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey in a letter urged the team that evaluated bids to supply clean power to Massachusetts utilities to explain in writing and release to the public any determination made on the Northern Pass bid.

“It was good to see that the DOER was interested in putting a timetable on this and as I see this just to decide whether to fish or cut bait and not drag it out indefinitely,” said Robert Grace, managing director and president at Sustainable Energy Advantage in Framingham, Mass., which does energy market analysis.

In New Hampshire, Northern Pass officials want to move quickly on getting the SEC to reconsider its decision to deny the Northern Pass application for a certificate of site and facility. The committee said project officials failed to meet its burden to show that the project wouldn’t unduly interfere with the region’s orderly development.

Project spokesman Martin Murray said the 30-day clock to file a motion for the committee to reconsider its decision should start on Feb. 1, the date of the verbal decision.

But committee attorney Michael Iacopino said: “The committee in the past has accepted motions for rehearing based on 30 days after the written decision.”

Said Murray: “The decision the SEC makes and what follows after will determine what the timeline will be moving forward.”

Fifteen legislators, including House Speaker Gene Chandler, are urging Gov. Chris Sununu, a Northern Pass supporter, to back Granite State Power Link, which would go in-service in 2022.

“The Massachusetts clean energy RFP evaluation process lacked transparency, and its decision — heavily weighted on the ability of Northern Pass to begin delivering energy by 2020 — is now demonstrably flawed,” wrote the legislators.

National Grid, which is proposing using mainly existing rights of way to locate a new transmission line to bring Canadian wind power to New England, plans to file an application with the SEC in the next few months.

The governor’s office said it looked forward to reviewing the letter.

mcousineau@unionleader.com


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