Northern Pass: EIS contractor selection was ‘entirely proper’

The developers of the Northern Pass transmission project sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) on Oct. 16 saying it was unable to “stand by silently” as the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) misrepresents the process of selecting an environmental review contractor for the project.

The CLF told the DOE in its letter of Oct. 9 that it had concerns about the legality of the selection process for the current contractor on the project’s environmental impact statement (EIS), and it argued that the DOE essentially relinquished control to Northern Pass Transmission (NPT) for the selection.

In its response to the allegations, NPT said the search process for a contractor was “entirely proper,” and that its involvement was standard practice under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

“DOE does not differ from other agencies in requiring an applicant for agency action that requires NEPA review to conduct the search for candidates for a NEPA contractor, but to reserve to itself the final decision,” NPT said. “Here, DOE not only retained decision-making authority over the final selection, but it also subjected the search and selection to strict standards far beyond what NEPA requires.”

CLF and other interveners to the Northern Pass application already successfully pushed to replace the first EIS contractor for the project.

In the second search for an EIS contractor, NPT noted, it became increasingly difficult to find a firm that met a DOE requirement that applicants have no current or past relationship with NPT or its affiliates.

“It quickly became apparent that the [DOE] criteria ruled out virtually all of the large, national firms that routinely handle complex NEPA projects,” NPT said.

The Northern Pass is a proposed 180-mile high-voltage transmission line that would connect Quebec and New Hampshire and give New England access to additional hydroelectric resources in Canada.

NPT announced recently that it has secured 99% of the property necessary for the company to release a route update for the project. The company plans to amend its permit application to the DOE by the end of the year and propose a new route for the northern part of the line that has been uncertain since last April.

In its letter to the DOE, NPT called other claims of the CLF “irrelevant attacks” on the contractor selection process, and it rebuked the suggestion that the DOE signed off on the presidential permit application before it was filed.

“This totally fabricated claim is based on the fact that Northern Pass had a routine pre-filing courtesy meeting with DOE,” NPT said. “Nothing that transpired in that meeting constituted a sign-off … and it is irresponsible of CLF to even make such a claim.”