If the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) does its job right, the environmental review of the Northern Pass project – the largest infrastructure project in recent New Hampshire history – will be a massive and complex undertaking, analyzing all alternatives to the current proposal and describing the many social and environmental impacts of the project. That’s why it’s critical that DOE begin its work with the right plan – one that takes into account the tremendous public input DOE has received during the ongoing scoping process and that also reflects DOE’s technical expertise, especially regarding the possible technological alternatives to the current proposal. (Information on the scoping process and how to submit comments to DOE is here – the deadline for written comments is April 12.)
Today, in a joint letter to DOE, CLF and several partners renewed their request (also made at the mid-March scoping meetings) for DOE to release a report – before it begins work on the draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) – identifying the alternatives DOE plans to study in depth, the alternatives it plans to exclude from the analysis, and the categories of social and environmental impacts that it will consider. We believe that DOE should not only prepare such a report, but also provide the public the opportunity to comment on it.
The report on the scoping process that DOE currently intends to issue – one that simply summarizes public input – is not enough, especially for this project. The project application provided almost no information on alternatives and environmental impacts (something CLF and others vehemently objected to months ago), and that lack of information has undermined the public’s ability to provide meaningful feedback during the scoping process as a result.
Before DOE and the EIS contractor it ultimately selects to replace its original contractor begin studying the project and its alternatives behind closed doors, the public deserves to know DOE’s plan and to have the chance to suggest changes to that plan. Otherwise, DOE may “re-emerge” from its work months from now with a document that misses important alternatives and will be very challenging to change – a result that would be problematic for DOE and the public alike. DOE needs to get it right the first time, and the public should be invited to help ensure that DOE has the right plan to do so.