April 9, 2014

Update On Energy Bills in the N.H. State Legislature (SB 245, SB 281, SB 569, HB 200)

Here's what's going on with SB 245, SB 281, SB 569 and SB 200:


SB 245, the SEC reform bill, passed the Senate on a voice vote and is now before the House Science, Technology and Energy Committee.  April 8 was the first day of ST&E hearings.  Go here for joint testimony from SPNHF, AMC, CLF and TNC.  Please reach out to House members to support SEC reform.

SB 281, which provides the SEC with a policy framework for siting wind energy projects, also passed the Senate on a voice vote, and is now being considered by the House ST&E Committee.  The SEC is already charged with developing administrative rules on wind siting by the end of 2014, but has received little guidance from the legislature on what the rules need to address.  SB 281 provides the SEC with this guidance.  The bill had its initial public hearing before the committee last week. Click here to read joint testimony on SB 281 submitted by the Forest Society and several of our conservation partners.   Please reach out to your House members, especially if they are members of the ST&E Committee, and ask them to support SB 281! 

The two burial bills, HB 569 and SB 200, are both now in the Senate.
HB 569 has been heard by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee; please ask senators to support this bill. You'll find talking points on this blog (scroll down).  

SB 200 sits on the table in the Senate.  It complements HB 569 by creating authority for the NH Department of Transportation to identify and lease state owned transportation corridors for energy infrastructure (like transmission lines and pipelines). You'll find more info on SB 200 by scrolling down in this blog.

March 11, 2014

Talking Points for SB 281

SB 281: Policy Guidance for New Energy Facility Siting Rules

SB 99 enacted last session tasked the SEC with developing and adopting new administrative rules that establish regulatory criteria for the siting of energy facilities in New Hampshire by Jan. 1, 2015.  The goal was for these new criteria to guide the SEC in making the required statutory findings as to whether a proposed facility’s application met the test for regulatory approval.  

Another goal for these new rules was to assure the public, energy facility developers and all stakeholders in the SEC’s decision-making process that SEC decisions would be guided by a common set of decision-making criteria.  


SB 281 provides the SEC with direction on what policy goals should be met with the new administrative rules mandated by SB 99.  It offers eight discrete standards that the new rules should address.  It also authorizes the SEC to provide a property value guarantee to individual landowners when the SEC concludes that the landowner’s real estate value is adversely impacted by the siting of a specific project. 


If you have questions or comments regarding SB 281, please contact Chris Wells at cwells@forestsociety.org or 224-9945.

Talking Points for SB 200 and SB 245

SB 200: State-Owned Transportation Corridors as Energy Facility Corridors

This bill is designed to address urgent concerns raised by communities and landowners directly in the path of a non-reliability, elective, merchant transmission line proposed to bring Canadian electricity to southern New England through New Hampshire. If this power is wanted to meet southern New England’s energy needs, it should not be transmitted through New Hampshire on towers well above tree height if the communities and landowners directly affected do not want these large overhead transmission facilities.    

The SB 361 Commission reported that there was a feasible alternative to large overhead transmission systems: undergrounding along state-owned transportation corridors.  SB 200 provides statutory authority for the New Hampshire Department of Transportation to identify state-owned transportation corridors that could be used for underground energy facilities --- like electric transmission lines or gas pipelines.  It provides the SEC with authority to request proposals from energy facility developers and to lease at fair-market value energy corridors designated.  It also provides the SEC with the authority to prioritize underground siting of merchant electric transmission lines in cases where the projects are not required for system reliability.

This process will be a triple win for the State of New Hampshire.  First, it provides developers of energy transmission facilities workable, long distance corridors.  Second, it provides an underground alternative to unsightly overhead transmission lines.   And third, it provides the state with a new revenue stream for road and bridge maintenance.  New Hampshire should be on the front edge of new technologies that offer innovative ways of meeting present and future energy needs.  SB 200 provides a pathway for New Hampshire to be on the leading edge.

As a North Country business owner wrote in Monday's Berlin Daily Sun, SB 200 is good for business and good for people: the bill "provide[s] some stability and foresight in the planning of certain large energy infrastructure projects. Energy developers will know that certain types of projects will have a corridor available and correspondingly are not appropriate outside the corridor. This will reduce if not eliminate a lot of the wasted time, effort and money expended in trying to site controversial projects. The efficient use of human and capital resources in developing large projects is of critical importance. As an investor and shareholder of energy related projects, greater efficiency makes sense to me."

SB 245 – Reforming the Site Evaluation Committee

In the spring of 2013, Commissioner Burack told a House committee that the current SEC process was close to the “breaking point” and that legislative reform was needed.  In response, the Legislature passed SB 99, requiring the Office of Energy and Planning to conduct a public stakeholder process to identify the issues of greatest concern and to issue a report to assist the Legislature in identifying reforms.  That report was presented on December 31, 2013, and informs many of the provisions contained in SB 245. Failure to act this session on SB 245 will likely mean picking up the pieces of a broken process after it happens.

The SEC is presently structured as “one stop shopping” for developers of energy facilities that generate or transmit electricity in volumes of 30 megawatts or more.  Under current law, 15 state agency heads serve as standing members of the SEC; they sit as judges on applications for new energy facilities in an adjudicative process established in RSA 162-H. These "judges" approve the application as presented, approve it with conditions, or deny it.

SB 245 addresses the following problems in the present structure and process:

1. Disconnect between the statute's core purpose and the decision-making the SEC is tasked to perform: no public interest finding required.The fundamental purpose of RSA 162-H is to serve the public interest in balancing the environment with the need for new energy. Yet none of the statutory findings the SEC is now required to establish in rendering a decision includes answering the big picture question of whether a proposed project is actually in the public interest.

SB 245 adds two new required findings to the three currently required by the statute (RSA 162-H:16). The first new finding is that the SEC must make a determination that the project is in the public interest. The second is that the SEC must make a determination that the proposed project is consistent with the State’s energy policy presently being developed by the Office of Energy and Planning.

2. The absence of a role for municipalities in the decision-making process. Municipalities have no seat at the SEC table where land use decisions directly impacting the community are made.

SB 245 does not remedy this deficiency by placing a member of the impacted community on the SEC, but it does require regional representation of public members to serve on the SEC.  It also requires the new public interest finding to specifically consider local zoning ordinances and municipal master plans in reaching a determination on the question of whether the project proposed is in the public interest.  

3. Public engagement in the SEC process is drastically compressed. Under current law, there is only one required public hearing on a proposed application, which must occur within 30 days of an SEC determination that an application is complete and ready for SEC consideration.  The public learns about the details of the project at the same hearing at which it is expected to comment.

SB 245 changes this by requiring the applicant to hold a pre-application public information meeting and by requiring the SEC to hold a post application public information meeting followed by a later public hearing.  This provides the applicant with the opportunity to share the project formally with the public before submitting an application, and it provides the public with an opportunity to learn about the application as proposed BEFORE it is afforded the opportunity to make substantive comments on the proposal.  SB 245 also clarifies the role of the “public counsel” in SEC proceedings; the public counsel is an assistant attorney general appointed by the Attorney General to assure that the public interest in a well-informed SEC decision is attained with each application considered by the SEC.

4. The 15 statutory members of the SEC do not have the time necessary to fulfill the task of sitting on today’s SEC as judges.  One application alone can consume 25 or more full days of a commissioner’s work year.  This makes it extremely difficult for them to do the primary jobs they are each hired to do.  

SB 245 proposes to replace the current statutory members of the SEC with an independent panel of seven individuals, nominated and vetted through the same process that senior agency leaders are now nominated and vetted.  Under SB 245 the state agencies will continue to provide the SEC with information critical to the decisions the SEC makes, but they will no longer be required to have their leaders serve as SEC judges.  

5. The SEC has no staff or resources to do one of the most important and high profile responsibilities performed by state government on behalf of the state’s citizens.  No application fee is charged to an applicant, yet the state spends thousands of taxpayer dollars in payroll and benefits alone for each day that the members of the SEC meet, take testimony and deliberate on an application.


SB 245 rectifies this resource drain by providing a means to charge fees to recover the costs of doing the SEC’s work and by providing the SEC with a staff director.

NOTE: See the amended versions of HB 200 and HB 245 in the N.H. Senate Calendar.

If you have questions or comments regarding SB 200 or SB 245, please contact Will Abbott at wabbott@forestsociety.org or 224-9945.


February 19, 2014

Testimony in favor of SB200, the Bradley burial bill


February 19, 2014

The Honorable Russell Prescott, Chairman
Committee on Energy & Natural Resources
New Hampshire State Senate
The State House
Concord, NH  03301

Dear Chairman Prescott:

Our organizations support SB 200 and the protocols it creates for the potential use of state-owned transportation rights of way as locations for energy infrastructure.  We believe SB 200 provides a possible pathway for a win-win resolution of difficult issues presented by new merchant transmission projects likely to arise in today’s rapidly transforming energy market place.

We recognize that to successfully meet future electricity needs in New Hampshire and New England new and upgraded transmission systems will be needed to get electricity from its source to consumers.  We also recognize that in each choice we make about specific energy projects there are trade-offs, often complicated by the dynamic electricity market itself.  SB 200 provides New Hampshire with a new pathway to meet future electricity transmission needs while at the same time avoiding the most negative impacts of large over-head transmission towers.  It may also provide a new stream of revenue to the State to help meet the needs of highway and bridge maintenance.
 
If New Hampshire is to host a high voltage extension cord from Quebec to electricity markets to our south, the extension cord must only be built on terms that are acceptable to the people of New Hampshire, and particularly to the communities directly affected by a proposed project.  SB 200 provides New Hampshire with a means to address the new breed of overhead merchant transmission lines that can unnecessarily scar communities and their natural landscapes.  New burial technology developed by manufacturers in Europe allow for burial of high-voltage direct current cables in a way that could deliver power through New Hampshire to markets south of us without the unsightly impacts of an overhead transmission system. 

In its 2012 session the General Court enacted SB 361, which created a legislative commission to look into the feasibility of undergrounding of high voltage electric transmission systems within state-owned transportation corridors.  The final report of the SB 361 Commission was conveyed to former Governor John Lynch on November 30, 2012.  The Commission heard testimony over four months from a wide variety of stakeholders, including:
·        The Maine State Office of Planning, charged with implementation of a Maine statute designed to invite bids from private energy facility developers to use  Maine transportation corridors for underground utility infrastructure;
·        ABB, a Swiss company that has developed “ HVDC Light” technology, which it claims can be cost competitive with overhead transmission systems when taking into account all operating expenses over the life of a project; the company has working applications of this technology in Denmark and Australia; ABB has started to build a manufacturing facility for this new HVDC Light cable in the southeastern United States in anticipation of a growing market for their produce in North America;
·        The New Hampshire Department of Transportation, which identified for the Commission four specific transportation corridors that would be eligible for hosting such underground electric systems — Interstates 93, 89, 95 and Route 101 between Manchester and the Seacoast;
·        Independent System Operator New England, the non-profit that manages wholesale electricity markets for the New England grid;
·        The New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission; and
·        Representatives of utilities serving the New Hampshire electricity market.
The Commission unanimously concluded that use of state-owned transportation corridors should be explored further.  The majority of legislators on the panel concluded that legislation should be introduced that requires merchant transmission projects proposing to build an overhead transmission system in New Hampshire also submit to the NH Site Evaluation Committee an underground alternative.  Earlier this year, the House passed HB 569, which would amend the SEC’s authorizing statute to provide the guidance that favors underground alternatives to overhead merchant transmission systems.  SB 200 puts the State in the position of having a process in place that allows the State to offer specific state-owned corridors for such underground facilities.
 
New technology for transmission of bulk electricity long distances is clearly moving in the direction of constructing such facilities in workable underground corridors.  There will likely be strong public support for such technology, particularly from communities that would otherwise be negatively impacted by over-head facilities.  It is clear that underground HVDC projects proposed for Maine, Vermont, and New York are meeting with a level of public acceptance not present for the overhead project currently being proposed for New Hampshire.  Even Hydro-Québec has recently agreed to bury its new transmission facility north of the international boundary that will interconnect with the Champlain-Hudson Express HVDC project, bringing 1000 megawatts of electricity from Québec to New York City. 
 
With SB 200, New Hampshire can set a high but attainable bar for meeting new electricity needs while at the same time protecting the natural landscapes that make our State so distinctive.  We strongly encourage the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to recommend “Ought to Pass” on SB 200 to the full Senate. 
 
Sincerely,
 
Will Abbott, Society for the Protection of NH Forests

        wabbott@forestsociety.org, 224-9945, Ext 327
Susan Arnold, Appalachian Mountain Club

        sarnold@outdoors.org, 664-2050
Christophe Courchesne, Conservation Law Foundation

        ccourchesne@clf.org, 225-3060, Ext 3017
Jim O’Brien, The Nature Conservancy

        jim_obrien@tnc.org, 224-5853, Ext 28

Everywhere we look...we see transmission lines being buried.




EverywhereWeLook01
EverywhereWeLook02
In Maine,underground along Interstate 95, the Northeast Energy Link.Read about the project | This project in the news
In Vermont,the New England Clean Power Link, designed to bring HQ power to the region.Read about the project | This project in the news
In New York,under rail beds and Lake Champlain, the Champlain-Hudson Express, designed to bring HQ power to New York.Read about the project | This project in the news
In Quebec,where Hydro-Quebec itself is putting the Canadian stretch of the Champlain-Hudson Express underground.
Read about the project
EverywhereWeLook04
EverywhereWeLook05
EverywhereWeLook06
EverywhereWeLook07
In New Hampshire, Northern Pass instead proposes to use outdated technology to drape 180 miles of overhead transmission line on 1500 towers across two-thirds of the state. Burial would avoid the scar and the subsidy.
The New Hampshire Department of Transportation has identified four existing state-owned transportation corridors that could host underground utility infrastructure. NH would get revenue from leasing such state-owned rights of way.
Don't Give Hydro Quebec and Northeast Utilities a free pass
to let Northern Pass ruin New Hampshire's treasured landscapes and towns.
EverywhereWeLook09
EverywhereWeLook16EverywhereWeLook14EverywhereWeLook1
































In Maine,
underground along Interstate 95, the Northeast Energy Link.
Read about the project | This project in the news

In Vermont,
the New England Clean Power Link, designed to bring HQ power to the region.
Read about the project | This project in the news

In New York,
under rail beds and Lake Champlain, the Champlain-Hudson Express, designed to bring HQ power to New York.
Read about the project | This project in the news

In Quebec,
where Hydro-Quebec itself is putting the Canadian stretch of the Champlain-Hudson Express underground.
Read about the project
















































In New Hampshire, Northern Pass instead proposes to use outdated technology to drape 180 miles of overhead transmission line on 1500 towers across two-thirds of the state. Burial would avoid the scar and the subsidy.

The New Hampshire Department of Transportation has identified four existing state-owned transportation corridors that could host underground utility infrastructure. NH would get revenue from leasing such state-owned rights of way.

Don't Give Hydro Quebec and Northeast Utilities a free pass
to let Northern Pass ruin New Hampshire's treasured landscapes and towns.




































































In Maine,
underground along Interstate 95, the Northeast Energy Link.
Read about the project | This project in the news

In Vermont,
the New England Clean Power Link, designed to bring HQ power to the region.
Read about the project | This project in the news

In New York,
under rail beds and Lake Champlain, the Champlain-Hudson Express, designed to bring HQ power to New York.
Read about the project | This project in the news

In Quebec,
where Hydro-Quebec itself is putting the Canadian stretch of the Champlain-Hudson Express underground.
Read about the project
















































In New Hampshire, Northern Pass instead proposes to use outdated technology to drape 180 miles of overhead transmission line on 1500 towers across two-thirds of the state. Burial would avoid the scar and the subsidy.

The New Hampshire Department of Transportation has identified four existing state-owned transportation corridors that could host underground utility infrastructure. NH would get revenue from leasing such state-owned rights of way.

Don't Give Hydro Quebec and Northeast Utilities a free pass
to let Northern Pass ruin New Hampshire's treasured landscapes and towns.






































































In Maine,
underground along Interstate 95, the Northeast Energy Link.
Read about the project | This project in the news

In Vermont,
the New England Clean Power Link, designed to bring HQ power to the region.
Read about the project | This project in the news

In New York,
under rail beds and Lake Champlain, the Champlain-Hudson Express, designed to bring HQ power to New York.
Read about the project | This project in the news

In Quebec,
where Hydro-Quebec itself is putting the Canadian stretch of the Champlain-Hudson Express underground.
Read about the project
















































In New Hampshire, Northern Pass instead proposes to use outdated technology to drape 180 miles of overhead transmission line on 1500 towers across two-thirds of the state. Burial would avoid the scar and the subsidy.

The New Hampshire Department of Transportation has identified four existing state-owned transportation corridors that could host underground utility infrastructure. NH would get revenue from leasing such state-owned rights of way.

Don't Give Hydro Quebec and Northeast Utilities a free pass
to let Northern Pass ruin New Hampshire's treasured landscapes and towns.