After a summer when many in New Hampshire expected to hear about a revised route and a renewed public relations campaign for the Northern Pass transmission project, the current proposal, which surfaced almost two years ago, is facing new obstacles:
- On the heels of its successful campaign to protect the Balsams, the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests has announced a new $2.5 million land conservation plan that seeks to stymie the new North Country route Northern Pass has been trying to assemble for more than a year. The fund-raising campaign to support the Forest Society’s plan appears to be off to a good start.
- Last Saturday, in a peaceful statewide event called Hands Across New Hampshire, hundreds of concerned citizens across New Hampshire – from Manchester to Colebrook – joined about a dozen spirited protests against the project. The picture above shows the protest along PSNH’s existing transmission corridor in Deerfield, the proposed southern terminus of the line. The protests showed that grassroots opposition is strong in the North Country but also in the central and southern parts of the state.
- Every gubernatorial candidate on the ballot is on the record calling for careful consideration of alternatives to the current proposed overhead lines, and many are agreeing with CLF that the current proposal does not provide any real benefits for New Hampshire residents and ratepayers.
- A legislative commission is evaluating the feasibility of using state-owned transportation corridors, including rail beds and highways, for high voltage transmission projects like Northern Pass, an approach that Maine and other states are pursuing. The commission already has heard from state agencies and the makers of high-tech underground transmission technology, and it is now evident that burying transmission lines in available state highways and rail corridors is potentially practical and viable. The commission’s work will culminate in a report to the Legislature later this year.
- In yesterday’s provincial election, Québec’s Liberal government – the sponsors of Québec’s energy strategy and Hydro-Québec’s plans to export more hydropower to New England through Northern Pass – was ousted from power. Although the sovereigntist Parti Québecois, which will lead a new coalition government, has committed to continue the Liberal government’s Plan Nord (with its substantial hydropower component), it is unclear how these political changes will affect Québec’s and Hydro-Québec’s relationships with Northern Pass, especially in light of the declining economic value of the project for Québec.
It is long past time for Northern Pass to acknowledge (contrary to Northeast Utilities’ recent sunny pronouncements to investors) that the current proposal – new route north of Groveton or not – is a non-starter in New Hampshire. Instead, we should be shelving this fatally flawed proposal, critically exploring whether and to what extent hydropower imports are needed, evaluating all the alternatives in an open and well-informed planning process, and continuing to pursue greater regional consensus and coordination to build a real clean energy economy with broadly shared benefits, on both sides of the border.
For more information about Northern Pass, sign-up for our monthly newsletter Northern Pass Wire, visit CLF’s Northern Pass Information Center (http://www.clf.org/northern-pass), and take a look at our prior Northern Pass posts on CLF Scoop.