Northern Pass is now on life support. The latest decision in New Hampshire further signals the end of this ill-conceived project – a high-voltage transmission line that would cut through the White Mountain National Forest and bisect New Hampshire from north to south. Northern Pass tried to rush New Hampshire through permitting, but the Granite State’s siting committee stood firm – refusing to play fast and loose with the process.
New Hampshire Doesn’t Want Northern Pass
On February 1, Northern Pass was rejected 7-0 by the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee. The committee rejected the project because the developers failed to show that it would not have undue, harmful impacts on the region – including on land use and tourism. This oral vote by the committee to reject Northern Pass is now being codified into writing.
Northern Pass is impatient though — in Massachusetts, the project is subject to a March 27 deadline to reverse its fortunes in New Hampshire. If Northern Pass cannot get its permit by then, Massachusetts will set the project aside in a lucrative contract to deliver 1,090 megawatts of hydropower to the state. This would be a huge blow for Northern Pass.
So Northern Pass submitted an unusual request to the Site Evaluation Committee for rehearing – unusual because they submitted it before the Committee had even issued a written decision. But the Committee members met last week and decided that they will not cut short their normal process.
The Committee will issue its written order by the end of March, and only then can Northern Pass file a request for rehearing and ask them to reverse the rejection. In addition, Northern Pass will have to wait 10 days for other parties to reply to that request, plus a reasonable amount of time for the Committee to review all of the filings and arrange a time for a public meeting. This precludes the quick resolution that Northern Pass was hoping for and could push the decision on Northern Pass’s motion for rehearing to late April or May.
This Takes Northern Pass Out of the Running in Massachusetts
Contrary to Northern Pass’s desire to cut the process short, the Committee’s decision to reject its premature request confirms a standard procedural timeline that will be followed by a lengthy judicial appeals process. This makes it virtually impossible for Northern Pass to meet Massachusetts’s March 27 deadline in order to remain a contender for the state’s clean energy contract.
It’s also worth noting that New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee members expressed no sympathy for Northern Pass and its complaints. One member stated that she was confident the oral rejection was “well-reasoned, lawful, and in accordance with the statute and the administrative rules.” As for Northern Pass’s last-ditch efforts to make the project look more palatable by proposing changes that would overcome Committee and others’ objections, she also said that she disagreed with any effort to re-open the record to include new conditions.
Northern Pass has been developing this project for eight long years, and during that time it has refused to admit that the project as planned would have major impacts on the state of New Hampshire.