Northeast Utilities (NU) tells investors and the public that it is will announce a new northernmost route for its Northern Pass transmission project by a certain date. The date arrives. A “project update” appears on the website of NU subsidiary and project developer Northern Pass Transmission LLC, saying that it isn’t ready to announce the new route just yet.
Sound familiar? It happened at the end of 2012. As reported in the Caledonian Record, it happened again last week, a mere month after NU said – in writing to investors and the Securities and Exchange Commission – that it would announce a new route by the end of March. This is the fourth self-imposed deadline that Northern Pass’s developer has failed to meet since last summer. You’d be forgiven if you started asking yourself whether Northern Pass’s route is the transmission equivalent of vaporware.
For whatever reason, NU has repeatedly misled the public and its investors about the Northern Pass project, and not just the project’s schedule.
- Its claims regarding the climate benefits of the project are based on the demonstrably false assertion that large-scale hydropower has no greenhouse gas emissions. The other New Hampshire benefits that NU ascribes to the project are little more than overblown talking points that do not withstand scrutiny.
- Last November, NU’s CEO misled investors by falsely claiming broad support for Northern Pass among environmental groups, New Hampshire’s governor, and the regional operator of the electric grid; a corporate spokesperson then misrepresented what he said in an attempt to cover up the misstatements.
- While it continues to insist Northern Pass-transmitted hydropower needs no subsidies, NU has been openly lobbying to obtain special treatment for large-scale hydropower from Connecticut officials and the Connecticut state legislature.
Securities regulators should take note of this pattern of behavior and insist on honesty and transparency from NU, just as Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley did when NU recently balked at revealing its CEO’s 2012 compensation package. As we’ve said before, investors, the public, and our energy future depend on accurate information and forthright disclosures from energy companies. That’s not what we’re getting from NU on Northern Pass.