Department of Energy’s Analysis of Northern Pass Is Grossly Inadequate

Melissa Birchard

Last month, CLF filed our latest round of official comments on the Northern Pass project. This time, the hefty set of comments was in response to the Department of Energy’s analysis of the likely environmental impacts of the proposed transmission line.

As currently planned, the overhead transmission line, a project of Eversource Energy, would bisect the heart of New Hampshire to bring hydroelectric power from Canada to New England. Originally proposed in 2010, the Northern Pass project has met huge public resistance over the last six years due to the company’s refusal to bury it underground to protect New Hampshire’s majestic landscapes.

CLF has been a vocal opponent of the project and we have repeatedly urged the Department of Energy (DOE), which is charged with permitting the project at the federal level, to thoroughly analyze its environmental impacts. We have also pushed the DOE to consider the many possible – and less damaging – alternatives to the project.

So when the DOE released its draft analysis of the project’s environmental impacts earlier this year, we hoped that it would do the right thing and not simply give Northern Pass another cursory review.

But DOE let us – and the people of New Hampshire – down once again. Our conclusion about its analysis? Grossly inadequate. Here’s why:

  • The Department failed to analyze any of the viable alternatives for meeting New England’s energy needs, including clean, local renewable power.
  • It also failed to adequately analyze whether New England even needs this project, given other transmission lines currently proposed to carry electricity to the region, ongoing measures to curb energy demand in New Hampshire and other states through energy efficiency, and emerging advancements in creative, renewable energy technologies.
  • The analysis reveals gross procedural deficiencies that unreasonably narrow the scope of analysis and ignore the Department’s own mandate to consider whether approving Northern Pass is in the public interest.
  • The Department did not identify and evaluate any impacts to landscape-level historical and cultural resources that so many residents value and on which much of our local economy is built.
  • The report overlooked the project’s impacts in Canada, including greenhouse gas emissions associated with generating and delivering the promised hydropower.

Given the intense public interest in (and controversy around) Northern Pass, the Department of Energy should have conducted as thorough an environmental analysis of the project as possible, in order to put to the test any and all questions about the project’s impact. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.

This initial analysis isn’t yet finalized, however, and CLF is calling upon the DOE to issue additional analysis in the form of a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement to address the issues noted above, before taking any further steps toward permitting Northern Pass.

CLF’s comments to the DOE are available here.

Before you go… CLF is working every day to create real, systemic change for New England’s environment. And we can’t solve these big problems without people like you. Will you be a part of this movement by considering a contribution today? If everyone reading our blog gave just $10, we’d have enough money to fund our legal teams for the next year.

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