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Northern Pass officials push to get project approval

New Hampshire Union Leader

February 27. 2018 11:57PM
Members of the state Site Evaluation Committee and others, during a bus tour in October, view a stretch of utility right-of-way in Concord where the Northern Pass transmission project would run. (MICHAEL COUSINEAU/UNION LEADER FILE)

MANCHESTER — Northern Pass officials on Wednesday plan on “outlining conditions” they think a state committee that turned down the project could impose to get to a yes vote.

Organizers of the $1.6 billion effort will meet with business and union leaders at Eversource Energy Park in Manchester to discuss the proposed transmission project.

The state Site Evaluation Committee on Feb. 1 unanimously rejected Northern Pass’s application after finding it didn’t meet all the criteria for granting a required certificate. Committee members voted before considering all four criteria, a move the committee’s attorney said was legal.

Northern Pass officials “will discuss the project’s path forward and its request for the NH Site Evaluation Committee to resume deliberations,” according to a statement from Northern Pass.

Project foe Jack Savage questioned the news conference, which will include Jim Roche, president of the Business and Industry Association of New Hampshire.

“The problems with the Northern Pass proposal and the deficiencies of Eversource’s application are so fundamental that there are no conditions that can remedy them,” he said. “I don’t know how holding a press conference changes that.”

Others joining Eversource New Hampshire President Bill Quinlan include Franklin Police Chief David Goldstein, the heads of the Manchester and Nashua chambers of commerce and members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, whose members stand to gain construction jobs.

The SEC decision put into question whether Northern Pass could finalize a 20-year deal with Massachusetts officials to supply clean hydropower that would travel over Northern Pass power lines and give the project a guaranteed buyer for that power.

With a March 27 deadline looming, Massachusetts officials recently chose an alternative project to negotiate with simultaneously.

That was the New England Clean Energy Connect transmission project, a joint bid between Central Maine Power Company and Hydro-Quebec. That $950 million project would deliver 1,200 megawatts of hydro-power from Quebec through Maine into New England. Its in-service date of 2022 is two years later than what Northern Pass proposed, but the SEC decision puts that into question.

Northern Pass also would transmit hydro-power from Quebec.

On Tuesday, the CEO and president of ISO New England, which operates the regional power grid, said it didn’t matter which of the two proposals was chosen.

“Any additional hydro energy to the region will help us offset the losses” from retiring fossil-fuel plants, Gordon van Welie told reporters during an annual media briefing.

In January, ISO New England issued a study warning of possible regional fuel shortages during the winter of 2024-25 possibly requiring rolling blackouts, partly due to power plants retiring around New England in the coming years.

Hydro power should lead to lower energy prices, he said, and an influx of hydropower into New England “will help offset some of the fuel security risks.”

Northern Pass spokesman Martin Murray said a recent cold spell forced the region to use coal and oil power plants to keep the lights on, resulting in increased carbon emissions, he said.

“Had Northern Pass been in place, consumers would have benefited from millions of dollars in cost savings, and carbon emissions would have been 25 percent less,” Murray said.

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