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Safety records a hot topic at Northern Pass hearings

By MICHAEL COUSINEAU
New Hampshire Union Leader

May 04. 2017 2:42AM
Eversource executives Michael Ausere, left, and Kenneth Bowes answer questions during day three of the state's Northern Pass hearings in Concord on Monday. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

CONCORD — The general contractor for Northern Pass has been penalized more than $167,000 for workplace health or safety violations since 2011, according to documents submitted to a state panel.

An Eversource executive acknowledged Wednesday his company has had safety “issues” with the general contractor or its parent company.

PAR Electrical Contractors Inc. — which will be responsible for overall project management, schedule and cost control for Northern Pass — was cited for eight violations in five states but not New Hampshire, according to the website for Good Jobs First, a national policy resource center that tracks violations.

PAR’s parent company, Quanta Services of Houston, faced more than $1.1 million in penalties for health or safety violations as well as wage and hour violations since 2010, according to the website. The figures include fines, settlements and other costs companies might be ordered to pay.

Kenneth Bowes, Eversource’s vice president of engineering, did not provide specifics regarding PAR or Quanta.

He told the state Site Evaluation Committee that Eversource, the parent company for Northern Pass Transmission, reviews various injury rates of its contractors as well as their insurance claims for workplace injuries. He said Eversource holds discussions with a contractor’s senior management team if that company exceeds certain Eversource safety metrics.

That included PAR or Quanta, he said.

Northern Pass spokesman Martin Murray later declined to cite specific issues.

“In our business, we take safety extremely seriously and we have very high expectations of our vendors as well,” he said.

A spokesman for Quanta Services did not comment. PAR has an office in Bow.

The proposed $1.6 billion project to bring hydropower from Canada into New England needs several state and federal approvals before it can start operating along the 192-mile route in late 2019 or early 2020. Project officials hope to garner all necessary approvals by the end of this year.

Stewartstown resident Brad Thompson brought up the penalties during the committee’s hearings on Northern Pass. His wife, Daryl, found the information while researching the company.

“They’re all there,” Brad Thompson said later. “You can’t hide ’em.”

Other issues

Meanwhile, Northern Pass officials said its staff would inform residents near overhead construction areas before work started and would try to accommodate special circumstances. Homes would be visited about six weeks before construction.

“And in that week of construction, we’d go out and knock on the doors again and let the residents know that we were coming, the type of work we would be doing, if there are any issues that we needed to be aware of, and so we work on a case-to-case basis along the right-of-way to make sure that we try to minimize the impacts if they have a particular issue that they were dealing with on a particular day, we could stand down for that period of time,” Bowes said.

On another topic, Bowes agreed to shift a proposed construction access road and some construction pads to avoid wells monitoring an area near lagoons at Ashland’s wastewater treatment plant.

“I think that’s helpful,” but may not address all issues, said attorney Steven Whitley, who represents the Ashland Water and Sewer Department as well as several towns, including New Hampton. Whitley asked about proposed structures that would be taller than existing ones near a “scenic easement” close to the Pemigewasset River in New Hampton. The easement itself banned structures, he said.

“So if you’re not in violation of the letter of the easement, you’re violating the spirit of that easement,” Whitley asked.

A Northern Pass attorney objected and Whitley withdrew the question.

mcousineau@unionleader.com


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