Company behind Northern Pass project files for rehearing
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — The company behind the Northern Pass hydropower project is offering to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to ease concerns that it would negatively impact local communities, businesses and tourism in New Hampshire.
Eversource New Hampshire President Bill Quinlan said the company on Wednesday submitted a request from the Site Evaluation Committee to rehear the $1.6 billion project that was set to deliver hydropower from Canada to customers in southern New England through a 192-mile transmission line in New Hampshire.
Regulators rejected the project earlier this month over concerns about potential negative impacts.
The committee has 10 days to approve or reject the rehearing request.
As part of the request, Eversource said it is offering up to $300 million in reductions to low-income and business customers in the state.
It also is offering to allocate $95 million from a previously announced $200 million community fund — $25 million to compensate for declining property values, $25 million for economic development and $25 million to promote tourism in affected areas. Another $20 million would fund energy efficiency programs. It is proposing to switch to a less invasive digging method in laying down the transmission lines that would go through the town of Plymouth, where businesses have complained about potential disruptions.
“Given the urgent need for cleaner, more affordable energy in the region, it is important that we present for consideration a solution that addresses the legitimate concerns raised during deliberations,” Quinlan said. “We are hopeful that the SEC will focus on the comprehensive set of commitments that would establish a constructive path toward a resolution.”
But the company is not offering to change the route of the project or bury more of its transmission lines, key demands from opponents who have argued that the tall towers would disrupt scenic views and potentially discourage tourists from visiting, especially during the fall foliage season.
“Today’s actions by Northern Pass are nothing more than a desperate ploy to resurrect a dead project. It won’t work,” Protect the Granite State Senior Advisor Judy Reardon said in a statement. “The problem isn’t the SEC as Eversource itself has pointed out. The problem is Eversource’s arrogant refusal to listen to 8 years of New Hampshire saying loudly and clearly that they don’t want Northern Pass.”
Supporters of the project have touted how it would lower the region’s energy costs, bring much needed jobs and help revive economies of communities in the northern part of New Hampshire — which have some of the state’s highest unemployment rates.
“It’s difficult to state this more plainly — our state and our businesses need Northern Pass,” said Tracy Hatch, the president and CEO of the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce.
Opponents dispute that the project would bring benefits to New Hampshire, noting all of the energy passing through New Hampshire is going to Massachusetts to help the state meet its clean energy goals.
A 2016 Massachusetts law requires utilities to solicit long-term contracts with providers of offshore wind and other forms of clean energy, including hydroelectricity. As part of that, the state in January chose Northern Pass from dozens of submissions.
The Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources has said it would continue negotiations with Northern Pass until at least March 27. But it also announced earlier this month that it would start talks with a second hydropower project, Central Maine Power’s New England Clean Energy Connect, as a backup should the Northern Pass project not get approval.