New England still deserves a fair, big-picture review of Northern Pass, despite developers’ delay

Christophe Courchesne

photo credit: Hope Abrams/flickr

Here in New Hampshire, the leaves have turned.  What hasn’t changed is that the environmental review of the Northern Pass proposal remains stalled while the project developers – Northeast Utilities (and its subsidiary Public Service Company of New Hampshire) and NSTAR – seek a new route for the northernmost 40 miles of the project.  It’s a disgrace that the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has so far refused to use the developers’ significant delay to assess the nature and extent of New England’s need for Canadian hydropower and to develop an appropriate plan to bring that power into the region, as CLF and others have been requesting since April.

While DOE is in a holding pattern, CLF is continuing to fight for a fair and comprehensive environmental review of the Northern Pass project.  Earlier this month, CLF filed new comments with DOE, supplementing the detailed comments we filed in April.  Our new comments address:

  • Why CLF has renewed concerns about DOE’s control over its new environmental review contractors.  Based on our review of the Memorandum of Understanding between Northern Pass, DOE, and its new contractors, posted here (PDF), we explain that Northern Pass could still have an unfair and inappropriate influence on the content of the environmental impact statement and the schedule for completing it.
  • What the Northeast Energy Link proposal means for the Northern Pass environmental reviewThe recently announced Northeast Energy Link proposal, along with the Champlain Hudson Power Express project, makes it clearer than ever that we need a regional assessment of our energy needs.  These other two transmission projects also show that burying transmission lines in transportation rights-of-way is an abundantly reasonable alternative to overhead lines.
  • How Northern Pass hasn’t clearly disclosed the source of power for the project.  We bring to DOE’s attention important information, obtained by CLF through its cross-examination of an executive of Northeast Utilities before Massachusetts regulators, that the source of Northern Pass’s power is likely to be new hydroelectric projects that Hydro-Québec is now in the process of designing and building.  CLF is especially troubled by the new information because the impacts of the project are much more significant if it causes the construction of new dams and the associated negative environmental impacts, including well-documented spikes in early greenhouse gas emissions from flooded land.  Northern Pass and its parent companies have consistently failed to acknowledge that these emissions undermine their claims about the reductions in emissions the project will supposedly provide.

A copy of our new comments is available here.  We also filed a Freedom of Information Act request with DOE, seeking to obtain a copy of the “Consulting Services Agreement” between Northern Pass and the environmental review contractor team.  The Memorandum of Understanding suggests that this separate contract includes important information on the budget and schedule for the environmental review, and the public deserves to know these details.

With the permitting process due to continue when Northern Pass announces a new northernmost route, CLF will be launching new ways to keep you informed about the latest Northern Pass news and the best ways for you to get involved and make your voice heard. Please stay tuned!

For more information about Northern Pass, visit CLF’s Northern Pass Information Center (https://www.clf.org/northernpass) and take a look at our prior Northern Pass posts on CLF Scoop.

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