By Chris Jensen, NHPR
A new federal report about an electric transmission project in New York says there are a lot of good reasons to bury such lines and that is likely to give opponents of Northern Pass ammunition in their campaign to get the lines underground...
The U.S. Department of Energy analyzed the impact of the proposed Champlain Hudson Power Express, which hopes to carry power from Canada to the New York metro area.
If given final approval by the DOE the route would stretch 336 miles. For about 141 miles the lines would be buried alongside roads or railway lines.
In its final Environmental Impact Statement the DOE concluded burying the lines would make them less vulnerable to storm damage or terrorist attacks. It would also be less disruptive to the environment and reduce maintenance.
“The Champlain Hudson document really confirms that the underground transmission options are economically and technically feasible and in many cases have substantial advantages over the overhead approach that is favored by Northern Pass,” said Christophe Courchesne is an attorney with the Conservation Law Foundation.
But in a statement Northern Pass spokeswoman Lauren Collins said every energy project is “different and these differences influence design and cost.”
She said Northern Pass estimates burying the line along its existing rights-of-way would cost $15 million to $20 million per mile compared to $3 million per mile for overhead lines.
Officials at Champlain Express have estimated the cost of burying their lines alongside those roads and railway lines will be about $5.5 million per mile.
The project pays the railroad a fee for using the right-of-way but there is no charge for running the lines alongside a highway because it is considered a public benefit, said Andrew Rush, a spokesman for the project. In the Hudson River and under Lake Champlain payments are made to the state.
Northern Pass says it wants to use its own rights-of-way “obtained by working with willing landowners and using existing power line rights-of-way.”
Using state rights-of-way might require payments to New Hampshire.
The Department of Energy is conducting a similar Environmental Impact Statement on the Northern Pass Project. However, the draft EIS is not expected until late this year.
But it is expected to include – as part of its examination of alternatives – a look at burying the Northern Pass lines.
“The contents of the final EIS demonstrate that burial is a real alternative. The thing is that you have to pick the right route,” said Ken Kimball, the director of research for the Appalachian Mountain Club which opposes the Northern Pass.