The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability endorsed a Presidential permit for the 320-kV HVDC Champlain Hudson Power Express transmission line, according to a notice of availability filed Oct. 31.
The DOE’s recommendation follows the New York PSC’s approval on April 18 of a certificate of environmental compatibility and public need (CECPN) for the $2.2bn project proposed by Transmission Developers, Inc. (TDI).
The DOE is responsible for approving presidential permits, which are required for projects that cross international borders. CHPE, as proposed, would cross into the United States from Canada near Champlain, N.Y. The line’s total length of 336 miles would be placed underground and underwater and traverse 16 New York counties, including Queens, where the line would reach its terminus. Southeastern New York has been designated as a critical congestion area by the DOE.
The draft environmental impact statement (EIS) for the project originally was to be submitted to the EPA on Oct. 1, but was delayed by the government shutdown, a spokesperson for the DOE said. Following the end of the shutdown on Oct. 17, the draft EIS was sent to all entities on the mailing list and was later made available on the EIS website on Oct. 21. DOE then filed the draft EIS with EPA on Oct. 22.
The EPA will publish the CHPE draft EIS in the Federal Register on Nov. 1, which will initiate a 45-day comment period that will end on Dec. 16. The document is currently available on the EIS website.
The DOE has scheduled four open houses to be held the week of Nov. 17.
“The expectation right now is that sometime in the second quarter of next year, depending upon how these public meetings go, that the Army Corps of Engineers and the DOE will issue the permits for the project, and with those permits and the state permit in hand, we’re finalizing our EPC [engineering, procurement and construction] contract for the technology and the folks who would actually build the line,” Don Jessome, CEO of TDI, told TransmissionHub.
Jessome said he expected to announce the EPC contractor either by the end of 4Q13 or in 1Q14.
TDI is also negotiating off-take agreements with Hydro-Quebec and will hold an open season once those are complete, he said.
On the financing side, TDI expects to have equity and debt commitments lined up by the end of 2014.
“The Blackstone Group will be putting in the equity, and for debt financing we are out to the traditional project finance market [and] export credit agency,” he said. “We have a very, very strong interest on the debt financing, so if everything goes according to plan we should be going toward our financial close at the end of next year and starting construction shortly thereafter.”
The project is scheduled to enter service at the end of 2017 or beginning of 2018.
The DOE’s Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability is leading the environmental review process. Cooperating agencies are the EPA, Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, New York State Department of Public Service and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
Consensus must be obtained by all of the agencies involved, but in drafting the draft EIS, “DOE would have been in consultation with all of these parties,” Jessome said.