For the better part of the past year, a proposal to build power transmission lines that would carry hydropower from Canada through New Hampshire and into Massachusetts seemed like a fait accompli. That changed last week.
The $1.6 billion Northern Pass Transmission (NPT) project, which is being developed by Eversource Energy and Hydro-Québec, would bring 1,090 megawatts of Canadian hydropower 192 miles across the state of New Hampshire. The NPT line would begin near the border town of Pittsburg, New Hampshire and would end in Deerfield, New Hampshire where it would connect to the New England electric grid.
Over the past year or so, the NPT project has won a long list of legal and regulatory approvals from the U.S. and Canadian governments as well as various state agencies.
In late January, Massachusetts awarded Eversource and HQ a major supply contract for one of two highly competitive renewable energy procurements that resulted from a law passed in 2016 by the Massachusetts legislature.
A press release by EverSource announcing that Massachusetts had selected NPT for the clean energy supply procurement reveals the sense of inevitability that had come to surround the project:
“Northern Pass expects to receive all state and federal permits by early 2018. The Province of Québec recently announced that it has granted HQ a permit to construct the hydroelectric transmission line that will connect with Northern Pass at the U.S. border. All major contractor and equipment contracts are fully executed to begin construction by mid-2018. A comprehensive project labor agreement with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers has been executed and is expected to generate thousands of jobs during peak construction for both Massachusetts and New Hampshire workers. Northern Pass is expected to be in service by the end of 2020.”
Needless to say, it came as a “shock” to most people when regulators in New Hampshire voted unanimously to block the NPT project last week.
The New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee(SEC), a state entity responsible for overseeing the planning, siting, construction and operation of energy facilities, voted 7-0 against the NPT project, citing concerns about the project’s impact on local business, tourism and development in the region.
“We are shocked and outraged by today’s SEC outcome,” said Eversource Energy in a statement. “The process failed to comply with New Hampshire law and did not reflect the substantial evidence on the record. As a result, the most viable near-term solution to the region’s energy challenges, as well as $3 billion of NH job, tax, and other benefits, are now in jeopardy.”
While it may very well be true that the SEC’s decision against the NPT project will have adverse economic impacts for the state and the region generally, the decision itself is hardly shocking.
“This project is so heavily opposed by such a large percentage of the New Hampshire population, including legislators, conservation groups and individuals, it will be litigated into the ground,” one industry participant responded in a survey conducted by UBS about the NPT project in July 2016.
Indeed, the SCE received literally thousands of comments from state residents objecting to the NPT – all of which are available online.
The SCE’s decision can be appealed and it almost certainly will be.