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Northern Pass files for approval with state regulators

The application includes a new project cost estimate of $1.6 billion, up from $1.4 billion, due mostly to the project changes announced in August. Those changes included burying an additional 52 miles of the 190-mile transmission line, which increased the cost, and reducing its size from 1,200 megawatts to 1,090 megawatts, resulting in some offsetting savings.

Click here to read the executive summary of the Northern Pass application

MANCHESTER — The formal application for the Northern Pass was submitted to state regulators Monday, in another milestone for the hydroelectric project first proposed five years ago.

The filing, with more than 20,000 pages of narrative and exhibits, is now before the state's Site Evaluation Committee, which has final say over the siting and approval process.

The application includes a new project cost estimate of $1.6 billion, up from $1.4 billion, due mostly to the project changes announced in August. Those changes included burying an additional 52 miles of the 190-mile transmission line, which increased the cost, and reducing its size from 1,200 megawatts to 1,090 megawatts, resulting in some offsetting savings.

The route from the Canadian border in Northern Coos County to a substation in Deerfield is essentially unchanged from the latest path unveiled by Eversource-NH President Bill Quinlan in August. Since then, the project partners have held five hearings, one in each county, leading up to the SEC filing.

"We have made some local adjustments based on feedback at the five public... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Click here to read the executive summary of the Northern Pass application

MANCHESTER — The formal application for the Northern Pass was submitted to state regulators Monday, in another milestone for the hydroelectric project first proposed five years ago. 

The filing, with more than 20,000 pages of narrative and exhibits, is now before the state's Site Evaluation Committee, which has final say over the siting and approval process. 

The application includes a new project cost estimate of $1.6 billion, up from $1.4 billion, due mostly to the project changes announced in August. Those changes included burying an additional 52 miles of the 190-mile transmission line, which increased the cost, and reducing its size from 1,200 megawatts to 1,090 megawatts, resulting in some offsetting savings.

The route from the Canadian border in Northern Coos County to a substation in Deerfield is essentially unchanged from the latest path unveiled by Eversource-NH President Bill Quinlan in August. Since then, the project partners have held five hearings, one in each county, leading up to the SEC filing. 

"We have made some local adjustments based on feedback at the five public information sessions to address some local concerns, particularly along scenic byways and river crossings," said Quinlan. "But the route is essentially as presented in August."

At that time, Northern Pass developers announced the change from a 1,200-megawatt project to 1,000 megawatts, but have now settled on 1,090. 

"We have now confirmed our technology, and it will deliver 1,090 megawatts," Quinlan said. "We needed to go through the competitive bid process for both equipment and construction, and we've done all of that over the last several weeks. We now have pretty firm pricing on all of this, so we have good confidence around what it's going to cost and we've locked in our project technology."

December DOE hearings 

The project needs both state and federal approvals. The U.S. Department of Energy recently completed its draft Environmental Impact Statement, and is now revising the draft to reflect the new route unveiled in August. 

The DOE is expected to hold hearings in December on the environmental impact statement, as a prelude to the presidential permit needed for the power lines to cross the international border.

"From this point forward, both the state and federal permit process will move in parallel," said Quinlan. As the federal agencies decide on the presidential permit, the state siting committee will now begin its review. 

The next step is for the SEC to determine that the application is complete, which must occur within 60 days. Once the application is deemed complete, the developer must hold another round of public information sessions, one in each county, within the ensuing 45 days.

Then begins an adjudicatory process before the SEC that could take all of next year before coming to a vote. The SEC, a sort of statewide planning board for energy projects, consists of the three members of the Public Utilities Commission, the commissioners of environmental services, economic development, transportation and historical resources, and two members of the public. 

The rules by which the SEC operates are currently under review in the state Legislature, as opponents of both the Northern Pass and the Kinder Morgan natural gas pipeline see the SEC process as their best chance for either stopping or significantly altering both projects. 

"We've been watching very carefully what's been going on around those rules," said Quinlan. "As we move into the formal adjudicatory hearings, if there are new rules that are put in place, our intention would be to comply with them. If something happens very late in the process, that might be a different story."

Debate: Burying the line 

Many of those who attended Northern Pass hearings as part of the SEC pre-application process urged the company to bury the entire length of line through the state, something Quinlan has consistently said would be too costly. 

Supporters of the project say it is needed to help lower energy costs and ease reliance on natural gas, which is in tight supply during the winter months. "It's a big milestone," Quinlan said of the SEC application. "We are happy to take this step." 

Jack Savage, a spokesman for the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, said his group will continue its opposition.

"We are fully prepared to intervene, and we anticipate an open, thoughtful and deliberate process," he said. "It is disappointing that Northern Pass failed to listen to the public at last month's SEC input sessions, where 80 percent of the comments were in opposition to Northern Pass as proposed. If Northern Pass were truly listening to New Hampshire landowners and communities as they claim, this proposal would have been for an entirely buried line." 

Savage said Northern Pass has yet to explain how it intends to traverse land owned by the forest society. 

"What Eversource has put forward blatantly and knowingly disregards our property rights and the conservation easements we hold in northern New Hampshire where they do not have an existing right-of-way," he said. "We don't intend to allow them to dig in our dirt, and we think the defense of property rights is in the interest of every New Hampshire landowner." 


Source: http://www.unionleader.com/...

OCT 20 2015
http://www.windaction.org/posts/43611-northern-pass-files-for-approval-with-state-regulators
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