New Hampshire SEC extends deadline for written decision on Northern Pass to March 2018

The New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee (SEC) on Aug. 31 voted to extend the deadline for its final written decision on the Northern Pass Transmission project by six months, to March 31, 2018, according to the project’s website.

“Northern Pass is disappointed in today’s decision considering this review process was already extended by nine months, from what was originally a 12-month process under recently enacted [New Hampshire] law,” Eversource Energy’s (NYSE:ES) Northern Pass Transmission LLC said on the site. “We’re encouraged by the SEC’s willingness to pursue options for concluding the review in advance of the new deadline. We remain confident in our ability to achieve a 2020 in-service date.”

Michael Iacopino, outside counsel to the SEC, on Sept. 1 told TransmissionHub that the plan is to have all of the evidence in the case in by Dec. 31, all of the briefing done by Jan. 31, 2018, and an oral decision by Feb. 28, 2018.

The only binding date is the March 31, 2018, date – that is, the SEC will have a final written decision by that date, he said.

“We had a prehearing conference a couple of weeks ago now,” he said, adding that the number of witnesses left to be heard, for instance, made it clear that the SEC was not going to be able to give good consideration of the issues before Sept. 30.

As TransmissionHub reported, Lee Olivier, Eversource executive vice president, Enterprise Energy Strategy and Business Development – during the company’s 1Q17 earnings call in May – noted that the SEC began final evidentiary hearings for the project in April, and that hearings were scheduled to run through early August.

“We consider the New Hampshire SEC schedule to be supportive of the committee’s stated objective of issuing a final written order no later than Sept. 30, 2017,” he said at the time.

Iacopino told TransmissionHub that the SEC is required to balance a lot of things, such as the environmental and economic aspects of the proposed line, the public interest in the line, as well as the line’s impacts on various things like air and water quality, the environment, wildlife, historic sites, and aesthetics.

The SEC decided that it was in the public interest to extend the deadline to give the committee ample time to give careful consideration to the record, he said.

As TransmissionHub reported, according to an Eversource Aug. 10 statement, the Northern Pass transmission line begins at the Canadian border in Pittsburg, N.H., and extends to Deerfield, N.H., where it connects to the New England grid. More than 80% of the line would be located along existing transmission corridors or buried along roadways to eliminate potential view impacts in the White Mountain National Forest area, the company said. Northern Pass would provide a new interconnection path between the Québec and New England electric systems, and would be controlled by ISO New England (ISO-NE), Eversource said.

Eversource also noted that the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), in its recently issued final environmental impact statement (FEIS) for the Northern Pass Transmission project, concluded that the proposed Northern Pass route is the “preferred alternative.”

The FEIS concluded that the project provides substantial benefits and would result in only minimal impacts, the company said, noting that the FEIS is a product of years of review of project environmental impacts by DOE in cooperation with other federal agencies, and reflects input collected from thousands of comments submitted by key stakeholders and the public.

Eversource said that the project is now awaiting the issuance of its federal permits, including DOE’s presidential permit, a special use permit from the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), and the Section 404 permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. All major state and federal permits are expected this year, Eversource said, adding that all major contractor and equipment contracts are fully executed. 

The project would be substantially complete by 3Q20, and following testing, the line would be in service by the end of 2020, the company said.

According to a separate Aug. 31 post on the project’s website, DOE has finalized a Programmatic Agreement (PA) regarding Northern Pass. The PA is a legally binding agreement that prescribes the steps necessary to complete the federal and state agency review of historic and archaeological resources, including addressing any adverse effects, the site noted.

The PA is part of a larger process under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, and is separate from the National Environmental Protection Act environmental review, according to the site.

The signatories to the PA include officials from DOE, the USFS, the U.S. Department of the Interior, the New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources, and Northern Pass Transmission, the site noted.

About Corina Rivera-Linares 3063 Articles
Corina Rivera-Linares, chief editor for TransmissionHub, has covered the U.S. power industry for the past 15 years. Before joining TransmissionHub, Corina covered renewable energy and environmental issues, as well as transmission, generation, regulation, legislation and ISO/RTO matters at SNL Financial. She has also covered such topics as health, politics, and education for weekly newspapers and national magazines. She can be reached at clinares@endeavorb2b.com.