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Northern Pass pitches money, revisions to get NH to reconsider

By MICHAEL COUSINEAU
New Hampshire Union Leader

February 28. 2018 8:11PM
2/28/18 Allegra Boverman/Union Leader. At the Eversource press conference about the Northern Pass status to date. Eversource President Bill Quinlan, standing, led the discussion. From left, seated, are some of the supporters of the Northern Pass from around the state: Mike Skelton of Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, Tracy Hatch of Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce, Brian Murphy and Theo Wright, both of IBEW. 



MANCHESTER — In a bid to revive its $1.6 billion Northern Pass power project, Eversource pledged Wednesday to spend $75 million addressing issues raised by a state committee that rejected it a month ago.

The utility also announced it would offer up to $300 million in energy cost savings for low-income families and businesses.

Project officials provided about 75 commitments and conditions it would accept to counter concerns of the Site Evaluation Commission, which rejected the project Feb. 1.

“They can adjust them as they see fit and our hope is that when they do so, the outcome will be different and allow this project to become a reality,” Eversource President Bill Quinlan told reporters at a news conference.

The project also offered a new approach to constructing an underground segment along Main Street in downtown Plymouth to lessen disruption to businesses.

The SEC during deliberations cited concerns over potential harm to tourism, property values and businesses along the 192-mile route.

The $75 million pledged Wednesday to address these concerns would come from the previously announced $200 million Forward NH Fund. Northern Pass would earmark $25 million to address potential property value impacts, $25 million to promote tourism and recreation in affected areas, as well as $25 million for economic development in more than 30 host communities.

For any landowner within 200 feet of the project’s right-of-way who can show their property values were harmed, “we will make them whole,” Quinlan said.

Committee attorney Michael Iacopino said the committee wasn’t likely to convene within 10 days to rule on the Northern Pass request to void the committee’s decision and resume deliberations.

“The statute says we are required to rule within 10 days or suspend the order,” Iacopino said. “By suspending the denial, you’re not granting a certificate.”

The committee did the same thing in 2013, suspending its denial of an Antrim wind project, which later was reconfigured and approved.

The SEC denial put into question whether Northern Pass could finalize a 20-year deal with Massachusetts officials to supply clean hydropower and give the project a guaranteed buyer for its power.

Massachusetts has set a March 27 deadline to complete that deal, and Quinlan said “we certainly need to be progressing” on getting state approval by then.

Project foe Jack Savage of the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests said Northern Pass officials “simply want a do-over” after losing.

“The SEC appropriately took into consideration the views of 22 intervening communities that opposed the project,” he said. “None of this can be remedied by giving away money.”

29-page motion filed

Northern Pass filed paperwork Wednesday asking the SEC to reconsider.

Project attorney Barry Needleman wrote that the committee failed to follow the law or its past practice as well as not considering conditions.

In its past 30 years, the SEC has issued at least 13 certificates that collectively imposed more than 300 conditions, according to Needleman’s 29-page motion.

A discussion on imposing conditions “may have caused members to change their minds,” Needleman wrote.

Iacopino declined to comment on the motion’s merits, but he previously said the committee’s vote was legal.

Project opponent Judy Reardon, senior adviser to the group Protect the Granite State, criticized the announcement.

“Today’s actions by Northern Pass are nothing more than a desperate ploy to resurrect a dead project,” said Reardon, who has declined to identify who is financing the group.

“The problem is Eversource’s arrogant refusal to listen to eight years of New Hampshire saying loudly and clearly that they don’t want Northern Pass,” she said.

Several business groups backing the project also appeared at the news conference to praise the project.

“Northern Pass is not the only solution that we need, but it is the most significant, shovel-ready project,” said Mike Skelton, president and CEO of the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce:

mcousineau@unionleader.com


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